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Check References for Elder Care Choices

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

Once research, screening, visiting, and interviewing tasks are complete, the family has one final task to manage; the checking of references. Each facility visited or home health worker interviewed should be able to provide contact information for several reference families who have used the facility or worker in the past who have agreed to talk about their experiences using the facility or worker. At least two references should be provided, preferably three. It is a bit of work to track down and interview all references, and some families will be tempted to skip this step. However, being aware of how other elders and families have experienced care providers' quality and reliability may help in deciding between otherwise equally strong candidates.

hand dialing on phoneReference families should be asked about their general experience with the care provider or facility in question, the length of their involvement with the provider or facility, whether they ever had occasion to be concerned about the facility or worker, and any other information that they would like to share. It should be kept in mind that references will have been selected by the facility or worker providing them based on their likelihood of reflecting well on the facility or worker. Thus, any negative information that references might provide should be taken seriously.

Families should consider conducting a criminal background check when hiring a home health worker. Families hiring an agency to prescreen home health workers should verify that the agency does this check themselves as part of their screening process. The family may also wish to run a sexual offender check on the neighborhood or area where care will take place. Many locations now offer websites that families may use for free to determine how many registered sex offenders live near a given addresses. Links to such website databases can be located by performing a search using keywords such as "(fill in your location name) Sex Offender Database".

Having completed reference and background checks on all potential candidates or facilities, families will have just about as much information as they could hope to have on their candidate care options. All that remains to do is to decide from among the candidates based on what has been learned, and to then complete necessary enrollment forms to secure a spot at a facility (if the family is looking for a care facility) or the necessary employment forms required to hire the chosen home care worker.