Saturday, August 11, 2012

Consider Very Carefully When Choosing In-Home Caregiver or Senior Companion

Few things feel better than the independence and freedom of living in your own home.

And for those of us who are elderly, disabled or both, hiring in-home caregivers can be a smart move that helps us stay in our homes and avoid or at least delay a move to a nursing home.

But whether you're looking for an in-home nurse or something as simple as a woman to do light housekeeping, choosing a caregiver for an elderly mom, dad (or yourself, for that matter) is something that must be done carefully.

Sadly, headlines abound about caregivers who turn out to be nothing more than wolves in sheepskins.

** Three "caregivers" who conspired to bilk a 90-year-old Pennsylvania woman out of $260,000 drove the woman "to an early grave," a judge scolded at their trial. One of three used the stolen funds to buy a car; another used her cut of the loot to purchase cosmetic surgery---a breast lift and a tummy tuck.

**  A "caregiver" is caught by a hidden video camera, stealing $1,400 cash from a 73-year-old Indiana woman, who had just cashed her Social Security check and was planning to use the funds to pay for her late husband's gravestone.

** Two "caregivers" were arrested and charged with bilking an elderly Wisconsin couple (an 84 year-old man and his 81-year-old wife) out of more than $30,000 in cash, jewelry and valuables---including gold wedding bands the couple had exchanged before their 1948 ceremony.

Those are just three cases that made the news. Most don't, since they involve petty crimes like thefts of small amounts of cash or other items. And many, if not most thefts from the elderly, probably go unreported since they are never detected by the victims; or they are detected, but the elderly victims are too embarassed to make a police report.

And while a University of Kentucky study showed that the people most likely to swindle or mistreat the elderly are---ironically---their own adult children, hired caregivers came in second.

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There are a growing number of big companies offering caregiver services in Chicago---like the Omaha-based Home Instead, the Ohio-based Comfort Keepers, or the Pennsylvania-based Visiting Angels service. But how do you find a caregiver who's honest and reliable?

Easier said than done, several people tell the Southwest Chicago Post.

"I went through a well-known, nationally-advertised service to hire an attendant for my mom," said Bill, a 45-year-old southwest suburban man whose 79-year-old mother lives in the West Lawn neighborhood.

"I've tried to get Mom to move out by us, but she won't leave the home where she and my dad lived and raised a family since 1952; and I can't be with her every day," he adds.

"So the company I hired sends over this girl---19 years old---to be my mom's caretaker. She doesn't live anywhere near my mom. She's from Harvey or somewhere in the south suburbs. Second week on the job, she's an hour late. No call, nothing, Just shows up an hour late. So my mom says, 'Why are you late?' And she says, like it's no big deal, 'Oh, I got arrested in Harvey and was in jail last night.'"

"So I call the service I hired and gave them hell. I said, "Hey, why are you sending me jailbirds? Your brochure said you screen your employees.' And they had the nerve to say, 'Just because she was arrested and spent the night in jail doesn't mean she's a criminal.'"

The man then terminated his agreement with the big caregiver company. Later, he discovered cash, jewelry and a few other valuables missing from his mother's home.

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"These are the kind of heartbreaking stories I hear from time to time," says Judy Quinn Mullaney, a certified home companion and co-founder of Celtic Home Care. "Most of the elderly women and men we serve are those who tried the big companies and wound up having a bad experience with a caregiver who was indifferent at best and a thief at worst."

"A big part of the problem is, a lot of younger adults these days were never brought up to respect their elders; so they don't view their clients with the respect they should," she adds. "On the other hand, I look at the people I serve---and I know these are people of my parents' and even grandparents' generation, so I treat them as I would my own mother or father or grandma and grandpa. To me, that's not a big deal. It's just showing them the respect they've earned and deserve."

Celtic Home Care provides in-home services such as companionship, light housekeeping and laundry, meal preparation, shopping and errands, and basic personal care that can include (for example) assistance with bathing. 

Raised in West Lawn (a graduate of St. Mary Star of the Sea School and Lourdes High School) and currently a homeowner in Evergreen Park, Quinn Mullaney understands the importance of hiring a caregiver that an elderly woman or man can feel comfortable with.

"People want to know who is this person coming in my front door," she adds. "They want a bit of recognition, of familiarity, of gaining a little insight into a person's background and character. They want to know that I have an affinity with them, with the neighborhood, and more. I understand that. I'd be the same way, if the roles were reversed."

Celtic Home Care is co-owned by Cathy Ryan Schroeder, who grew up in Mount Greenwood and graduated from Queen of Martyrs School and Mother McAuley High School. She is a certified Emergency Medical Technician.

"Choosing a home companion or caregiver is a decision that must be made carefully," Ryan Schroeder adds. "We encourage prospective clients to meet with us and get to know us---and bring trusted friends and relatives into the mix for second and third opinions. It is really important to us that the people we serve are comfortable with us---kind of like a 'We're not satisfied 'til you're satisfied' situation."

"There are so many benefits to living in your own home---as opposed to moving away to a nursing home," she concludes. "You have comfort, convenience and familiarity. You don't have to move away from longtime neighbors and friends; and you don't have to part with your pets. Our goal as caregivers is to work with you to make sure you keep all those benefits, now and for the future."

For more information about Celtic Home Care call (708) 529-0436 or email

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