What Can I Do if a Caregiver Steals?

caregiver steals from elderly person'a purse

 

What to do if Mom accuses her caregiver of stealing

As a family member whose loved one relies on caregivers or the senior care company providing the care, there’s almost nothing worse than hearing that something has gone missing from the home. The last thing you want to believe (or have happen) is that a caregiver steals from your elderly parent. We hope you never find yourself in this situation, but if you do here are some tips that might help.

First, determine if the item(s) in question really is missing or if it’s just misplaced. Go to your elderly parent’s home and have a good look around before doing anything.  People with dementia in particular can be both forgetful and paranoid. They may hide things in weird places to keep them safe and forget where they put them. Even those of us with no memory issues occasionally misplace items and elders may be especially likely to put valuables in hidden spaces when new people are coming into the home. Trace the steps and try to determine when your loved one last remembers seeing the item and any information about the situation.

When a caregiver steals

If the item is missing, then go to the police.  It’s not your job to try and question a suspect. That’s a job for law enforcement. The more facts you can share with the police, the better. Tell them:

  • When the items were last seen
  • Descriptions of the items
  • Approximate values of the items
  • Names and contact information for everyone who has access to the house (and contact information for the agency, if one is involved)

If you are dealing with a home caregiver agency, contact them.  Is the caregiver from a home health agency or someone hired independently? A good quality home care agency, like EasyLiving, will be licensed and bonded to theft if it is proven to be their caregiver. Depending on licensing in your state, certain types of agencies are required to carry insurance and take other steps to protect clients. For example, they typically have to screen their employees and do background checks.

EasyLiving does the required background checks but goes several steps beyond this with an especially rigorous hiring process, as well as in-home supervisory visits and ongoing training. We use detailed careplans and care notebooks in the home to increase the level of communication and awareness for all involved. These precautions and our management oversight help reduce the likelihood of problems going unnoticed. These are only a few of the reasons why it is best to go through a good agency to set up in-home caregivers. Yes, hiring someone independently will usually cost less per hour, but you go without many key protections (to say nothing of the hassles of being a boss). Saving in the short term can be costly in the long run.

If you found a caregiver through a neighbor or Craigslist and the caregiver steals, chances are your only recourse is firing the caregiver and whatever the police may be able to do. Often, even if the police prove theft, it can be very hard to prosecute (though states are working on this) and especially to recuperate the item or get compensation.

Sometimes your elderly parent may be very angry and want to fire the person and other times elderly parents don’t want to admit it when the caregiver steals (or they believe the caregiver is stealing) and/or don’t want to fire the person. An agency can help deal with all of these issues and talk to your parent. If an agency has policies in place to deal with such situations, it can make the process more straightforward and take some of the emotional burden and responsibility off of your family. An agency can also promptly get you other caregivers to cover your needs (we work as a team at EasyLiving, to provide consistency when changes occur).

Preventative Measures/Future Protections

Can family, friends, church members/clergy, neighbors, etc. make it a point to drop by and visit at least once a week? When a caregiver steals they often believe no one will notice or say anything.

It is also important to try to set good boundaries with caregivers and set things up in a professional manner. This is why using an agency is a good practice and why the agency should have consistent processes and policies. Sometimes caregivers who develop a close relationship with clients feel somehow justified in stealing or don’t see what they’re doing as stealing. Having clear training and oversight can help troubleshoot such issues before they occur. You can read more about elder exploitation issues in Aging Wisely’s Caregiver Concerns handout.

At EasyLiving, our mission is to create an environment where we set our team members up for success empowering them to provide the best in home care to the community. All in-home caregiver agencies hire humans and can encounter problems at some point. At EasyLiving, we strive for transparency and responsive communication so you always know what is going on and steps we’re taking to prevent future problems. Contact us at 727-447-5845 for senior care help today!