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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Home Health Aides under Scrutiny in Ohio


For every bad home health aide willing to take advantage of a vulnerable senior or person living with a disability there are dozens who choose the work for all the right reasons.  That's our starting point and it will also be our finishing sentiment.  It's not a disclaimer and it's not an afterthought!  It's our position.  It is grueling work with crappy pay.  But...

Home health aides have been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons.  This past week our local news channel, WBNS-10TV, ran a two part series that raised some legitimate concerns and questions about the industry.  Check out part one and part two. These reports help to raise awareness but... 

WBNS 10-TV got it wrong.  Ohio does NOT require background checks for all home health aides.  Agencies aren't skipping the background check - they are not required for private duty providers.They are only required if the agency participates in a state funded program (such as Passport) or for Medicare-certified agencies.  In other words, the state regulates government programs and not the industry. Other states regulate the industry. It's time for Ohio to step up and put regulations in place that address issues such as training, background checks, accountability, codes of conduct, education and yes - pay.  

This is a multi faceted problem that will require more than finger pointing and the occasional disapproving glance if the goal is truly to protect the elderly and/or disabled.  We suspect the whole thing drills down to the fact that we undervalue our elders and folks with disabilities. Why do we feel justified in paying home health aides so little? Where are the training and educational requirements? What about accountability? Why is it classified as a low level felony for a paid caregiver to steal from or otherwise take advantage of the elderly and/or disabled?  Where is the jail time? Where are the safe-guards preventing a convicted home health aide from continuing to work within the home care/caring industries? Why are background checks not required for everyone working in the home care arena? Regulation is needed because we are inviting paraprofessionals into the homes of the elderly and/or disabled without offering proper training, direction or supervision. It's a recipe for disaster yet we are quick to shake our heads in condemnation when things go astray.  

As a member of the home care profession, let me remind you that our position is that most home health aides are well-meaning and compassionate employees who never come close to violating the trust of their clients. They reside at the absolute bottom of a rigid hierarchy within the home care/medical industry and still they manage charged emotions and difficult family dynamics on a daily basis with little or no support.  They do housework & laundry, run errands, prepare meals and double as a taxi cab driver when their clients need transportation. They assist with personal care including bathing, toileting and yes - they change diapers as needed. They also hold hands and dry tears. They, like their clients, deserve our support and backing. 

We will be offering a more in-depth look on Senior Agenda in May. Stay tuned.  In the meantime, contact your local elected representative and demand regulation.