By Eileen Phillips, RN, Attention Plus Care

Life is full of choices as a consumer. We try to make informed choices but sometimes getting there takes a bit of experience and know-how. Online product or service reviews are helpful at times but can mean different things to different people based on experience. The same can hold true when searching for home care for yourself or a loved one.

A study done by Northwestern University reveals that home care buyers should beware. Researchers who posed as consumers surveyed 108 home care agencies from around the country. Results showed they hired unqualified and possibly dangerous caregivers to work in the homes of vulnerable seniors. Not only did agencies exhibit poor hiring procedures but researchers also found that many agencies did not train, supervise, screen or test for skills competency of their caregivers. Families may not realize how unqualified a caregiver is, especially if the care is for an aging parent who has multiple chronic conditions. In the state of Hawai‘i, home care agencies are not required to obtain a license, certificate or accreditation. What’s frightening is that agencies can continue to operate without any regulating
or monitoring.

“People have a false sense of security when they hire a caregiver from an agency,” said Lee Lindquist, MD, geriatrician and author of the study. “There are good agencies out there but there are plenty of bad ones and consumers need to be aware that they may not be getting the safe, qualified caregiver they expect. It’s dangerous for the elderly patient who may be cognitively impaired. Some of the paid caregivers are so unqualified it’s scary and really puts the senior at risk. We found agencies sending caregivers out into the seniors’ home without checking,” she said. “Identifying the good agencies from the bad is difficult because many agencies have slick websites and marketing campaigns.”

The study was published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society. From the agencies surveyed, slightly half (55 percent) conducted federal background checks. Even worse, only one-third did drug testing or checked for caregiver skills competency. More surprising, many agencies allowed caregivers to assess their own skills in a self-report and lacked consistent supervision of their caregivers. “The home care study is concerning, and families will want to seek more qualified caregivers from a reputable agency that is both accredited by The Joint Commission and licensed as a home health agency,” said Attention Plus Care Chief Administrative Officer Wesley Chang. “Home health agencies in Hawai‘i that provide skilled nursing services and other therapeutic services under a physician’s direction to home-bound patients must be licensed and monitored by the Hawai‘i State Department of Health.”

To maintain accreditation by The Joint Commission, agencies undergo a rigorous comprehensive evaluation to verify if the agency is following state and federal guidelines, as well as national health standards set by The Joint Commission. The commission’s goal is to address safety and quality care, leading to continually better patient care standards and outcomes.

Now that’s a good choice.

Accredited by The Joint Commission
1580 Makaloa St., Ste. 1060, Honolulu HI 96814
808-739-2811  |

Available monthly: AGING IN HAWAII EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH PROGRAM by Attention Plus Care — A program to provide resources for seniors and their families, instructed by a registered nurse, who covers a different aging topic each month. For more information on upcoming topics, contact 808-440-9356.