SHERIDAN — A recent court case involving a caregiver for a local senior citizen has sparked a renewed sense of caution among those seeking help caring for their loved ones.
Brooke Bass recently accepted a plea agreement after being charged with felony theft for taking a brooch from an elderly woman she had helped care for. The brooch was valued at more than $10,000.
The family involved noticed the brooch was missing and reported the theft to the Sheridan Police Department in early December 2013. The elderly woman to whom the brooch belonged had gone into the hospital in the fall of 2013 and several caregivers had been in and out of her house to bring her various items.
The resulting investigation showed Bass to have been in possession of the brooch. She had also taken it to several local and regional jewelry stores, including one in Billings where it was for sale.
Stella Montano, director of family caregiver services at the Sheridan Senior Center, said there are ways to protect yourself.
“There are a lot of people out there who are looking for just the right person to help them care for their loved ones,” Montano said. “There are also people out there saying, ‘I can do this. I have this experience.’
“But there are also those out there who are just trying to get into somebody’s home,” she added.
Montano said if you’re looking for a family caregiver there are several steps to take to try and protect yourself.
The first, she said, is to determine if you need a full-time caregiver or just somebody who can stop by and check on your loved one or bring them food. The Senior Center has resources available for those needs.
“I understand that caregivers can become desperate when seeking help,” Montano said. “But come talk with us, or the hospital, or community health. We can help you.”
Next, she said, ask friends and family members who have utilized caregivers in the past. They can provide referrals to trustworthy caregivers.
If that doesn’t work, AARP suggests running a job ad. In addition, Montano said, you can ask Sheridan Memorial Hospital for their list of private providers. Montano did note, however, that the individuals on that list have not been vetted and should still be checked out before being hired.
When considering applicants, AARP suggests asking for a job history, references and background check.
“You need to call references,” Montano said. “As an applicant I can give you any name I want, but reputable people will want you to call references. They’ll want you to do a background check and they’ll want you to ask around about their reputation.”
In addition, a website is available to help individuals check licensing credentials. The site, https://nursing-online.state.wy.us/Verifications.aspx, allows you to search by a person’s name and credentials.
Montano even suggested running potential hires by local law enforcement.
“None of this will guarantee your safety,” Montano said. “But to me it is worth the safety check. You are doing everything you can to protect yourself.”
Montano also suggested trusting your gut instinct. In addition, she said pairing people with caregivers can be tricky and recommended allowing the caregiver and your loved one to get to know each other a bit before committing to hiring.