Beware of in Home Care Theft

In home theft
Tips to Keep Valuables and Identity Secure

I’ve always felt the well-known expression “Buyer Beware” was an unfair but unfortunately accurate warning for consumers. It’s sad but true that a buyer can’t be blindly trusting in a seller or product and must remain cautious about false promises.

Similarly, those hired to provide assistance for others in need should be trustworthy and reliable, but tragically aren’t always.

My mother-in-law had impaired mobility and a plethora of other health issues but she was always lucid and oriented. As her physical condition steadily waned, she needed in home assistance.

My husband hired either caregivers from home health agencies or direct hires. Together he and I screened applicant resumes. Interviewed candidates. Checked references. We thought we had done everything right but found out too late how wrong we were.

Every caregiver with a key had carte blanche access to everything in my mother-in-law’s home! Her jewelry, driver’s license, credit cards, check book, social security number, cash, etc. Talk about open season for identity theft.

It wasn’t until my husband’s mother passed away and her house was being readied for sale that we found out that one or more unscrupulous hires had lifted jewelry and other valuables. We’ll never know exactly what was stolen, but we did discover fraudulent draws on her checking account and activity on at least one credit card. In the midst of my husband’s grief he had to juggle phone calls from detectives with the fraud division.

Before you hire anyone, and that includes family members, to provide in-home care follow these prudent safety measures.

  • Secure Valuables. It’s a sad reality but anything that can be pocketed might be. Everything with financial or sentimental value should be stored in a locked display cabinet, a safe, or physically removed from the home. If the “patient” is your loved one and is either living in your house or you in theirs, its crucial to also secure computers, mobile phones and anything else that can be used for identity theft!
    Install security cameras inside and out.The patient needs to have their picture identification with them if the caregiver is transporting them to appointments, as in my mother-in-law’s case. Beyond that, any credit or social security cards should be in a safe too.
  • My mother-in-law was very gullible and thought anyone there to help her could be trusted with her checkbook, charge cards etc.
  • If the caregiver is responsible for grocery shopping or running errands that necessitate immediate payment, provide a specific list, dole out reasonable amounts of cash, require receipts and check them!
  • If a reputable family member lives physically close to the patient, consider having the patient’s mail forwarded to them.
  • All of the person’s bills, credit card statements, etc. can either be handled by a trustworthy family member, the patient when the hired caregiver isn’t present, or if necessary a designee to manage finances.
  • Individuals with memory problems present additional challenges as virtually anything they report is suspect. All the more reason for cameras and securing valuables.

Case in point:

As an Occupational Therapist I provided in-home therapy visits through various health care agencies. Besides obviously not stealing anything, we were flat out warned against ever accepting a gift from a patient, no matter how innocent it seemed. I really came to understand that warning when my mother, deteriorating from dementia, accused a young, naïve aide of stealing a stupid glass cat. On interview the aide insisted my mother had given it to her. In retrospect, I have no doubt that when my typically sweet mom was present, she had in fact gifted the cat. But when the demented person emerged, Mom was hostile and accused this lovely young lady of blatant theft.

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About Elaine C.Pereira

Elaine retired in June 2010 as a school Occupational Therapist where she worked with special needs children. She lives in southeastern Michigan with her husband, Joe. Between them, they have five children — Joe has three sons and Elaine has twin daughters-and soon-to-be five grandchildren. Elaine has a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Wayne State University. Elaine is the author of I Will Never Forget and she was inspired to tell her mother’s incredible story in part to help other caregivers coping with memory loss issues in their loved ones. I Will Never Forget

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