The time has come. You are in need of home care services. Chances are good that this need has been preceded by some sort of crisis; a hospitalization, death of a spouse or a sudden decline in health. Likely, there are so many things to think about and arrange. There may be a variety of service groups coming in and out of your home to assist you in this transition; home health care, home care, hospice, durable medical equipment, housekeeping services and an increase in friend and family visits. The last thing on your mind may be the location and security of your valuables and financial instruments. This is why it is essential to locate and secure these items PRIOR to the need for these services.
Most service companies do their best to assure that the personnel that they are sending into your home are honest by conducting background and reference checks. Here is the problem, background checks are great for weeding out the prior offenders, however, no background check can detect if someone has never been caught or predict if they are going to steal in the future. Simply put, there is no way to guarantee that you will not be a victim of theft or financial abuse.
There are things that you can do, BEFORE a crisis (right now) to prepare yourself:
1. Locate all valuable items, i.e., jewelry, checks, credit cards, etc. Inventory what you have and identify if you are currently missing something. This will prevent confusion after the fact if you go look for something and it isn’t where you thought it was. Why? We once had a client who insisted that she had left some diamond earrings in her bathroom. She accused her caregiver of stealing them. Of course, we immediately removed the caregiver and reported the worker to Adult Protective Services. Two months later, we received a call from her daughter, apologizing that her mother had found her earrings in a different spot and hadn’t recalled moving them there.
2. Once you do need someone caring for you at home, secure all financial instruments and jewelry in a lock box in your home. Put the key where only you would know where it is and give a copy of the key to a trusted individual or in a safety deposit box.
3. Never give your PIN to anyone in your employ.
4. Never allow anyone to go to the bank for you to take out cash, via check, etc.
5. Report all suspicions or missing items as soon as possible to any company coming in and out of your home. If you are working with a home care agency make sure they are responsive to your concerns and act quickly to resolve the issue.
6. Do not give cash or check bonuses directly to home care workers, make sure that the agency they work for is notified and has an opportunity to copy the bonus check and document the gift to avoid any future misunderstandings or opportunities for financial exploitation.
If a caregiver asks you for money directly for ANYTHING, immediately report it to their agency. As benign as this may seem, it is considered ‘abuse of position’ and is covered under the law as follows:
Financial Exploitations –Financial exploitation means a situation in which a caretaker or any other person who is in the care or custody of, or who stands in a position of trust to, a resident, takes, secretes, or appropriates their money or property, to any use or purposes not in the due and lawful execution of his or her trust. In the simplest terms, the person who is acting as a caretaker unlawfully takes money or property of the resident. This also includes a request for transfer of property by the resident that was not carried out.

Most caregivers are good people interested in your well-being. They are also hyper-aware that they are most likely to be blamed if something goes missing in your home. If you follow the above guidelines, it should protect both you AND the people working for you.
If you find that you are a victim of financial abuse or theft, PLEASE follow through with filing a complaint with Adult Protective Services and any charges against the person suspected of committing the crime. It is up to you or your family to see that charges are filed. This may be very uncomfortable and stressful but it is VITAL. Without convictions and a subsequent record to detect on a future background check, there is nothing to prevent that same person from moving on to another agency or to hire themselves out privately and continue their predatory ways.

Submitted by Gabriela F. Brown, CSA, Owner of Constant Companions Home Care, San Diego and S. Riverside. Website email:

Author's Bio: 

Gabriela Brown graduated from Mt. Carmel High School in 1987. One of her first jobs out of high school was at Escondido Convalescent Center being trained as a Certified Nursing Assistant. In 1988, she took her place as a freshman at Mary Baldwin College where she majored in Political Science and Philosophy with a pre-law focus, graduating in 1992. To help pay her way through college, she alternated between waiting tables and caregiving on the weekends. After graduation her first professional position was Community Relations Director at the Home Health Care division of The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas (UTMB) using her public policy skills to educate the university’s doctors on sweeping changes in Medicare benefits for Home Health Care as well as to contribute to the growth of the Home Health Agency. In the end she was responsible for the community relations efforts for UTMB Home Health in 3 separate counties that are all served by UTMB physicians. After UTMB, Gabriela worked as an Account Executive and Business Development Director for a publicly held Medicare-certified home health agency, a Skilled Nursing Facility and later as the Community Relations Coordinator for a public hospital-based Home Health and Hospice in Kirkland, WA. All of this experience set the stage to be recruited back to San Diego as the Business Development Director to grow a fledgling home care (private pay) branch of a large home care company in CA. In 1.5 years Gabriela was able to increase revenue from 120K to 1.4M. In 2003, Gabriela founded Constant Companions Home Care, a private pay, non-medical home care agency serving both San Diego and S. Riverside Counties. Gabriela’s daily duties cover the spectrum from Intake/assessment and ongoing case management to caregiver hiring, staffing and supervision.


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