Advocate for the Aging

Who's watching your home aide?

Do you know where to look when you are trying to find help for your mom or dad? Do you know that there is a license for some types of care, but not others? And, by the way, not everyone seems to agree on what needs to be licensed and what doesn't. Virginia seems to be trying to get a handle on it, but they are using mostly a medical model, when most of the care people think they need is non-medical. The regulations for home care are really only a few pages, but there seems to be lots of gray area.

Care for the elderly is generally divided into two categories: companion care and personal care. Companion care usually includes things like laundry, companionship, light housekeeping and transportation. Personal care is more intimate care, like bathing and transferring from a bed to a wheelchair.

Virginia has no license for companion care. You might wonder if an agency is unlicensed, who is watching over it? When I went to arrange for care for my mother-in-law in Ohio, the first question I asked was "Are you licensed?" I found out that Ohio is not a licensure state. So, how do I, in Virginia, determine if the care provider on the other end of the line is doing what they say they will do? 

Virginia is a licensure state, as is Maryland. Virginia, where my agency is located, requires you to have a license if you are providing care to the elderly that involves touching them. Virginia also requires licensed agencies to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, have a registered nurse available to supervise care and operate from professional space. The state sends a surveyor to check the licensed agencies files, interview caregivers and go on home visits to ensure quality care is being delivered.

In Virginia, all of the licensed agencies I know also provide companion level care. Some believe the state needs to license that level of care. How do we expect state officials to protect seniors and their families from scams when they don't even look at all the agencies that are working, unsupervised, in seniors homes? A list of licensed agencies can be found at the Virginia Health Department Web site.

If you're not sure what kinds of help you need, the National Family Caregivers site is a great place to go for resources.


Toni Reinhart

 |  October 18, 2010; 6:06 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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