Private caregivers who help the elderly are not subject to background checks or oversight, and officials concede that government resources to help vet them are largely unused, The Oregonian reported.
The Oregon Department of Human Services reports that there were 2,350 cases of abuse involving elderly people living at home last year. Elder abuse can take the form of physical or sexual attack, although it's more common that vulnerable seniors and their families become victims of fraud and theft.
"It's a common misconception that if someone holds themselves out to be a caregiver they must have been checked by someone, somewhere. When, in fact, they have not," Jeff Lesowski, a senior deputy district attorney in Washington County, told The Oregonian.
State law requires background checks for caregivers paid through Medicaid or other public programs, but not for those who are paid privately. State and local agencies offer training, background checks and help with aging spouses or relatives. But officials say that most people aren't aware of those government resources and often turn to online classifieds like craigslist.com in search of caregivers.
Decisions about a senior's care are often made during times of high stress or medical crisis, and there's often little time to investigate all the options.
In an effort to help people connect with vetted caregivers and other services for seniors, the Aging and Disability Resource Connection of Oregon launched a searchable website with resources in every county. The Oregon Home Care Commission also offers connection to an online registry of caregivers who have cleared criminal background checks.
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Private Caregivers for Elderly Get Little Oversight, but Government Resources Underutilized