Who is Responsible for Checking Caregivers' Background?
Posted April 5, 1999 7:00 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH — Many people welcome strangers into their homes to care for loved ones. Last week, Carlette Parker was convicted of killing 86-year-old Alice Covington. Parker was a home health care worker when she met Covington.
Covington's friend introduced the two. That introduction proved to be a deadly mistake.
It is important to note that Parker was not working for Covington when she killed her.
But at the time, Parker was caring for elderly clients who had no idea what was in her background.
"Whoever you bring in will be an intimate part of your family, in your elder care person's life, and you need to know who they are," said David Owen.
Owen did not really know Parker, 35, when she cared for his aging father-in-law a year ago.
Last week, he and his wife saw her convicted in court for killing Covington, but that was not all they learned.
"We found out later she had a history of felony of a person for whom she was caring for. That was known at the time we had hired her but we didn't know that," said Owen.
The Owens found Parker through a home care agency.
Licensed agencies are required by law to do criminal background checks on every employee that enters a patient's home.
"It does not preclude a provider from hiring an individual," said Mike Bell of the N.C. Association for Home and Hospice Care.
That is why the association representing home care agencies says it is also up to families to do their own homework.
"Ask many questions, make sure the provider is licensed and interview several before selecting a provider," said Bell.
Lawmakers say more problems arise when families hire independent workers.
The law does not require them to undergo any type of background investigation.
"You call the references. You find out what kind of person you're hiring to take care of mama and daddy. The responsibility has to be on family members who make the choice and write the check," said Senator Beverly Perdue.
There has been a call for thestate legislatureto provide a list of independent caregivers so families can be guaranteed the same protection they get with an agency.
But lawmakers are reluctant to do that, because the state cannot assume any liability if something goes wrong.