When bringing in outside help to care for a loved one, many would say trust is key. But besides trust, what could one do to ensure the home care setting is safe from theft?
Opportunities for in-home aides to take advantage are rising. Statistics show not only are senior populations increasing as the baby-boomer generation ages, but many of these seniors want to age in their home. This will undoubtedly lead to increased accusations of theft by caregivers, so understanding what makes a loved one vulnerable to in home theft is crucial. Unfortunately, there is no exemption from theft in the home. Where opportunities lie, theft may likely occur. A study in New York estimates that 41 per 1,000 people were victims of financial exploitation in the home. Many more went unreported, or unnoticed.
Taking preventative measures is the best way to lower the risk of theft, and protect your loved ones. Not sure where to start? Follow these 4 simple steps to preventing in-home theft.
Research Your Care Workers
Research all companies or workers that plan on being in and around the home where your loved one lives. This is not just a good idea, it is necessary. Ask plenty of questions about potential caregivers. Start with the questions below, and add specific questions based on your situation or needs.
- Are all aide workers licensed, bonded, and insured? And for how much? – You want to be sure if theft does occur, you are not held liable.
- What is the hiring process for in-home aide workers?
- Are background checks, criminal checks, and drug screenings given to all workers?
- Does my aide/caregiver have any reviews or contacts from previous families?
- Ask what the policy is for requesting a new aide worker prior to committing.
Checking the reputation of the company is always a good idea. Either ask them for references or go online and do some research of your own. Most companies will have reviews online.
Secure Valuable Items
Taking away the opportunity of theft can end the desire before it happens. Store valuables, especially small items such as jewelry, in a safe or locked drawer. Keep all cash deposited into a secured bank account. All important documents should be kept with a trusted family member, or non-involved party.
Photograph/Document in Home Items
Document valuables kept at home, including taking photographs.
Take a full inventory, alongside a picture of items of value. Include where items are stored in the house in your documents. If anything winds up missing, you have a detailed record of all items.
Be sure to note the value of each item in your documents. This is also very helpful with insurance claims.
No Cash Policy
Always use a no cash policy. In-home aides in charge of shopping should be assigned a prepaid credit card or a credit card with a low charge amount. Explain that credit cards are monitored, and receipts for all purchases are required. This shows a sense of authority, and a no-nonsense attitude.
Review items purchased, and take note of unusual, or items purchased too frequent. If laundry detergent was purchased last week, and again this week, be sure to mention it right away. Be non-confrontational, but direct and to the point.
“We noticed laundry detergent was purchased last week, as well as this week, did something happen to the detergent?”
What to Do If Theft Is Suspected?
Even the most cautious, can be victims of theft. If you feel like your loved one might be a victim, act quickly.
Most in home thieves start by testing the waters. Purchasing an extra bottle of laundry detergent for themselves, or a package of toilet paper. Address these issues right away, and let it be known spending is monitored. If you notice an item is missing from the home, mention it as soon as you notice. The sooner the issue is addressed, the more likely missing items can be recovered.
Keep in mind, sometimes items get moved, or misplaced. It is always best not to jump to conclusions until you have all the facts. Alert the proper authorities if/when needed.
Prevent in Home Theft Before It Can Occur
Take the above precautions to stop theft from occurring. Be sure to remove temptations before they arise. In-home aide workers are trustworthy, but trust your own instincts and act immediately if a situation does not feel right.
Knowing how to prevent theft when you have an aide in the home is your best, and first line of defense.
The author, Ryan McEniff is the owner of Minute Women Home Care, a home health agencies located in Lexington, MA.