When I read the recent articles about the “nanny from hell,” Diane Stretton, who reportedly refused to leave the California home of her employers after being let go from her job and asked to vacate the premises, my mind went not to child care, but to elder care.
As a stay at home mother, I have no need for a nanny, but I have an elderly relative who is in need of live-in care right now, and I could find myself in the position of hiring such a provider for one or both of my parents in the future. The thought of a caregiver who refuses to do their job or to leave the home when fired is really scary, especially in light of the fact that the homeowner or employer’s hands may be legally tied for weeks or even months as an eviction is sorted out in the courts.
Don’t leave it to Craigslist
Before allowing a caregiver to move into your elderly loved one’s home, do all you can to make sure that you are hiring someone trustworthy, and that you are protected in case things do not work out. Although it may be cheaper to place an ad online and pay someone cash under the table, your loved one will be better protected if you do thorough background checks and draft an employment contract with an attorney.
Don’t forget the details
When you draft an employment contract, don’t forget details that will help ensure your loved one’s comfort and security. Take time to decide whether your employee will be allowed to smoke on the premises, entertain guests in the home, or play music and watch television without headphones after a certain hour. The more scenarios you can address up front, the less conflict there will be later.
Look for signs of abuse
Elderly people, like children, are at high risk for abuse because they are vulnerable. They are often physically unable to defend themselves, and may be further incapacitated by dementia or simply by fear. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, signs of abuse may be more subtle than bruises or broken bones. Look for signs of tension, depression, or other unexplained changes in mood. Also look for changes in your loved one’s finances, or missing objects in the home.
Make sure your loved one maintains social connections
According to the NCEA, two of the biggest risk factors for elder abuse are living with someone and being socially isolated. If your loved one’s live-in caregiver is the only person they see most of the time, they are at risk on both counts.
You can help make sure your loved one is better protected by dropping in regularly, or arranging with other friends or family to do so. Also, if your loved one is physically able to do so, consider finding them an activity to attend regularly outside the home, such as a knitting club, water aerobics class, bingo night or whatever they can stand to do, just to be out among other people. They are much less likely to be victimized if they are in frequent contact with others.
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