Next, I called the director of Michigan’s association for homecare agencies. It seemed to me that he basically threw up his hands, confessing the nature of the problem, and that nothing could be done beyond criminal background checks. I insisted that that’s not enough. We, as providers in the aging network, must develop a radar screen that’s more sensitive then criminal background check, to detect the bad apples before they have a criminal history. Admittedly, this is difficult, due to privacy rights of the prospective employee. But there are some measures that can be taken while respecting privacy rights. Here’s a few I’ve come up with in my many, many conversations with others as to this problem:
- Ask the prospective employee for a release to obtain his/her employment record from the prior employer. This way, the applicant knows these records are being accessed. If the applicant refuses, this is a red flag.
- Administer an employee screening test for honesty. The director of the homecare agency I spoke with seemed to think this would be difficult, because her profit margins are so slim as it is. How could she afford to implement such a measure? I’m told by a Industrial/Organization Psychologist—the expert knowledgeable about such tests, that honesty screens already exist, and are very difficult to manipulate by a dishonest person.
- Advocate for a legislative exception to the “don’t tell” handcuff ex-employers have to wear when asked for a reference by a prospective employer, when it comes to homecare agencies. This would be a hard sell. But legislators have to know of this predicament—the chronic shortage of direct care workers, their poor wages, and the limits this puts on a quality labor pool. Poor career incentives and working conditions forces agencies to select from more blemished apples than they would like to admit. Homecare agencies must be free to at least say whether they’d re-hire a worker, when such a worker has direct access to the assets and physicality of totally vulnerable older adults.
If you have other ideas, I’d like to hear them. Meanwhile, summarized below are the morals to this story that I can develop up to this point:
- Hide all valuable tangible personal property, and paper that has value,
- Don’t allow a homecare worker any access to dresser drawers
- Don’t believe everything you’re told by the police department. If it doesn’t sound right, look up the statute and/or appeal your dis-satisfaction to higher-ups.
- Don’t assume that a worker who passes a criminal background check is “clean.” Ask for references yourself, and call them. References should not be friends. They should be former clients.
- Advocate for a legislative exception to the “don’t tell” privacy right as it relates to the homecare industry.