You may depend on professional caregivers for your basic needs. This means the person you trust to meet those needs may also be a person who abuses that trust. This checklist of safety measures may help prevent abuse by paid caregivers.
- Make a specific list of your requirements for your caregivers and for the home care agency. That way, you eliminate confusion about the caregiver’s responsibilities, and the agency doesn’t send someone who cannot meet your needs.
- Have a family member, close friend, or neighbor call during each shift to check on you when you hire a new caregiver. Agree on a code word you can use to signal that you are in danger. The simpler the better. Example: "How’s Pam?" means you’re asking for immediate help. Give the code to the home care agency too.
- If you are unable to speak easily, pick a gesture that indicates something is not right. Raising an eyebrow. Biting your lip. Blinking three times.
- Make it clear that there are people around who check up on you. A new caregiver should know that people are looking out for you at all times.
- Surprise visits are the best way to truly evaluate your situation. Ask friends, family members, or neighbors to turn up without warning. Give your caregiver an hour off so you have time to discuss your situation in private with a friend or family member.
- Ask your visitors to check your refrigerator to find out if you’re eating properly. Have them lift your sheets to make sure you are being regularly washed and don’t have bedsores.
- Store your valuables—jewelry and the like—in a safe location. Only tell those you trust where they are. If you give an employee checks to cash for you, make sure that your bank knows who he or she is. Set a limit on how much money can be cashed. If a check is over that amount, arrange for your bank to call you or a designated family member immediately for an authorization.
- Purchase and wear an emergency call button so you can summon help. And if all else fails, in states where it’s legal, install a hidden camera to document any abuse.