Louisville, KY- Over the next few decades, the elderly will for the first time in history outnumber their younger counter parts. Many of those in the growing elderly population will land in long-term care facilities and others will require need the help of home care workers.
Since elderly abuse and neglect is a major concern, several states including Kentucky are moving to tighten regulations on home health care workers to ensure the safety of seniors who rely on them for some of their basic needs.
Elder advocates are pushing states to require home health care agencies to conduct background checks on the people they hire and increased regulations for long-term care facilities seeking licenses.
Bernie Vonderheide, president and founder of Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform, explained to the Cincinnati.com that complaints about the “questionable” backgrounds of home health care employees are increasing. He says people are becoming aware that it is necessary to have more control over the elder care industry in order to prevent more neglect and abuse from these workers.
Nursing homes are required to conduct background checks on their employees when they receive Medicare funding. This also applies to home health aides who provide medical services, but home care aides who assist the elderly in their homes with basic needs such as toileting, bathing and other tasks they are unable to do themselves, are not required to undergo background checks or thorough screening.
Lawmakers in several states have passed legislation to help improve the care seniors receive in their homes and at long-term care facilities.
Earlier this year, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that would require home care aides to have at least five year of experience and pass a background check. The legislation also called for a registry of home care aides.
In Iowa, Governor Terry Branstad signed a bill that called for a mandatory study of how background checks for home health care aides. The study will look at how background checks could be improved and “requirements for certain providers of home heath, including individuals and agencies that are not subject to state certification, licensing or regulation,” according Cincinnati.com
And in Kentucky, Governor Steve Beshear has said he is open to making the Kentucky Applicant Registry and Employment Screening Program mandatory. The program, which is voluntary, checks the background of long term care employees by obtaining fingerprints that are ran through state and FBI databases.
Background checks are a way for home care aide agencies and long-term care facilities to weed out applicants that have criminal backgrounds or a history of neglecting or abusing the elderly. Unfortunately, even though a facility may conduct these background checks, they are often not comprehensive enough or followed up on to adequately protect vulnerable adults.
Too often, seniors are neglected or abused by overworked and stressed elder care workers. Thorough background checks can go a long way to protect vulnerable adults and give their loved assurances that they are safe in their homes or at a long-term care facility.