Background checks – A tool to verify your caregiver

A background check is a process used to verify a person’s identity. It provides people with the opportunity to check a candidate’s education and employment history, criminal records (if any), and other activities before hiring them. A person might have to undergo a background check if they are looking for a job, new apartment, or wish to purchase a firearm.

Elders and caregiving services

As people grow old and retire from their jobs, their family members begin having concerns about their well-being, especially if they are left alone for long hours. While some seniors move into an assisted living facility such as a nursing home, others continue living with their children. According to a survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 90% of all households have working couples with retired parents. However, in both cases, people will require the services of a caregiver at some point.

But is it safe to hire a caregiver for seniors without running a background check?

Senior citizens can be neglected or even abused due to their physical limitations. Moreover, they may avoid talking about such experiences with their family members as it may make them feel vulnerable. The National Institutes of Health’s website mentions a case where Victor from Illinois hired a caregiver for his 85-year-old blind grandmother who then managed to steal their credit card and used it for his own expenses. So, before hiring any caregiver, one should check if the prospective candidate has a history of robbery, theft, or any other heinous crime. states that only 10 percent of the 1.5 million home healthcare workers in our country are registered caregivers or nurses. According to another research by, about one in 10 Americans over 60 experience some form of abuse by caregivers. These alarming statistics indicate the necessity of hiring caregiving services only after running a background check.

Background checks to ensure the safety of seniors

Caregivers or home health workers are responsible for the wellbeing of seniors. So, it is imperative that both individuals and home health agencies conduct a background check while hiring caregivers for seniors. Unfortunately, there are no federal laws for enforcing or regulating background checks. No one would want to hire a caregiver who has an extended rap sheet. If an individual is planning to run a background check before hiring a caregiver, they should make sure to cover these five key areas:

  • County Criminal search
  • National Criminal Database search
  • Education verification
  • Employment verification
  • Motor Vehicle Record

If a survey by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is to be believed, almost 90 percent of seniors prefer to stay in their own homes after retirement. Due to this, there is a high demand for caregivers who will come home to take care of a senior’s needs. As a result, there has been a growth in the number of home health agencies who provide the services of experienced and qualified caregivers for seniors. However, a vast difference exists between the number of qualified caregivers and the demand from the senior population in the country. Thus, it may become difficult to hire a caregiver for elders who have specific medical needs. Apart from this, home health agencies also compete with each other to hire the best caregivers from a limited pool of talent. These factors give people with malicious intentions the leverage to commit crimes against vulnerable elders.

Accurate background checks provide people with the peace of mind that the prospective nurse or home health service does not have an unlawful history. At the same time, it is helpful for caregiving services as it helps them screen their candidates more efficiently.

Every situation demands different types of background checks. Here is a compilation of seven common types of background checks used by most organizations. Individuals and caregiving organizations can use these background checks to verify the credibility of prospective caregivers:

Employment background checks

This is the first type that strikes in our minds when we think about background checks. Both individuals and home health organizations can use this before hiring nurses and caregivers. Employers of different organizations run background checks on potential candidates before hiring them. This is to avoid hiring individuals who have a history of unprofessional conduct. 72% of employers in the country run background checks on prospective candidates before hiring them. An employment background check may include but not be limited to a person’s work history, educational history, and credit history. Some organizations might also check an employee’s criminal record and set up drug screening tests for additional security.

If a person is applying for specialized positions, like a residential nurse or caregiver, then their employer might ask for licenses and certifications such as a nursing license. However, it is illegal for an employer to run a background check on the basis of an employee’s race, color, and religion. Additionally, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires employers to follow certain regulations, ensuring that the background check is fair. It also requires the employer to send the candidate a copy of the report used to make the decision of not hiring the candidate. This gives the candidate a chance to review errors and explain discrepancies such as gaps in the employment history, criminal offenses, and convictions.

The cost of an employment background check depends on what an employer wants to include for review. A basic check can cost as little as $30 per person whereas a thorough check can go up to $80 approximately. Following are some popular employment background check companies that employers can hire for screening their resident nurses and caregivers:

1. Good Hire

The California-based company offers a pre-screening portal for business owners which allows them to run a background check on their candidates. The website offers package and personalized quote-based pricing according to the number of profiles one sends for pre-screening.

2. Accurate Now

Suitable for small and medium-sized businesses, Accurate Now provides automated background checks with a pricing structure ranging from around $24.95 for a basic report and $63.95 for a premium report.

3. IntelliCorp

The agency offers a full range of background check services. It also works with employers to create tailor-made programs according to the organization’s structure.

4. HireRight

This agency offers screening services for more than 200 countries and territories and handles employment background check requirements in 20 different languages. If an employer has an online hiring process, it can use HireRight to screen applications.

5. Justifacts

Established in 1982, Justifacts provides employment background checks for both large-scale organizations and small businesses. The company offers an exclusive account manager for employers which helps them screen candidates. It also helps them interpret the results of these screenings.

Criminal background checks

Federal agencies, public and private organizations, or individuals can run this type of background check through the FBI’s official website. Criminal background checks are especially helpful for seniors who do not opt for the services of a verified home health agency. One can get to know about a candidate’s criminal activity which can include the following:

  • White-collar crimes (bribery, insider trading, fraudulent schemes, money laundering, identity theft, forgery, and other such crimes)
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Illegal firearms trading
  • Sex crimes

The following criminal databases are used to verify a candidate’s criminal background:

  • County criminal records
  • National criminal databases
  • Global and domestic terrorist watch list
  • Sex offender registries
  • State and federal criminal records

An important thing to note is that different states have different procedures for criminal background checks. Hiring companies have to follow the procedures outlined by the state governments. For instance, companies based in California might have to follow a level 1, name-based background check. On the other hand, companies based in Texas might need to run a level-2, fingerprint-based background check.

Credit checks

These are records of a person’s credit-to-debt ratio which shows if they have managed to pay their loans and bills in the past. Some home health agencies use credit background checks to see if their prospective employee has defaulted on a loan or has a bad credit history. A credit report is generated for every individual when they apply for a loan to buy a house or a car. Purchases through a credit card are also filed in the credit report. The credit report helps banks and loan organizations verify if the loan applicant will be able to pay the installments or credit card bills on time. A credit report shows applicant’s full credit history which includes:

  • Payment history
  • Civil judgments
  • Bankruptcies
  • Tax liens
  • Recent credit inquiries
  • Unpaid bills

Personal background checks

This type of background check is handy when one is hiring a residential nurse or caregiver for seniors. People can choose which searches or checks they want to perform. For instance, one can run personal background checks to see if the candidate they are hiring has his or her name appearing in any traffic offenders list or criminal database.

It also allows people to do a Social Security Number trace to see where the person has lived or worked. Personal background checks can cost anywhere between $20 to $60 depending on the extent of the search.

OIG background checks

The Social Security Act of our country mandates OIG (Office of Inspector General) background checks. OIG has a list of excluded individuals and entities (LEIE), which is maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services. Also known as sanctions list, it prohibits people who have committed health-care related crimes to work in federally-funded healthcare programs.

Licensed nurses, caregivers, and even home health organizations can be added into this list based on the following types of criminal offenses:

  • Medicaid or Medicare fraud
  • Offenses related to other healthcare programs such as SCHIP (State Children’s Health Insurance Program)
  • Patient neglect or abuse
  • Felony convictions related to recreational drugs

OIG background check is free, and one can visit OIG’s official website and search for a candidate’s or employer’s name. Individuals can get search results on the basis of date of birth, address, SSN (social security number), and the reason for exclusion from healthcare services.

Fingerprint background checks

The Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) was launched in 1999, and has since then, stored more than 35 million sets of fingerprints. Most of these fingerprints are submitted by law enforcing agencies. Also known as Identity History Summary, a fingerprint background check is used in conjunction with other background checks such as federal background checks. It is a mandatory selection process for government agencies such as law enforcing agencies, public schools, airports, and fire departments. Fingerprint background scans can be an eligibility requirement to apply for jobs in the health care industry, casinos, and pharmacies.

Home health services and elders can run a prospective caregiver’s fingerprint against AFIS to get an accurate record of their criminal history. This can be done through authorized criminal justice agencies. The AFIS includes records of previous arrests and disposition reports. And since it is nearly impossible to replicate fingerprints, AFIS also keeps a record of potential aliases.

Applicants are required to visit authorized local fingerprint businesses or government organizations to have their fingerprints scanned and submitted. FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) also provides a copy of identity history summary and a fingerprint card for $18. The summary includes the following information:

  • Criminal history
  • Federal employment (if any)
  • Naturalization (foreigners receiving citizenship of a country)
  • Military service

E-Verify background checks

Certain public and private employers in nearly 20 states are required to use E-Verify background check as per the federal government’s norms. This type of background check is used to verify the identity and employment eligibility of newly hired employees. It compares information from the I-9 form, an employment eligibility verification form created by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form contains government records which confirm if the prospective employee is authorized to work in the country. This information can be helpful for seniors and home health services to confirm the caregiver’s eligibility to legally work within the country.

The I-9 form and E-Verify are similar in their purpose, but the latter takes the screening process one step ahead. Here’s how:

  • While I-9 form does not require the submission of the social security number (SSN), employees need to fill in the SSN details on the E-Verify website.
  • E-Verify requires a photo ID of the prospective employee, which is not necessary for the I-9 form.

Background checks can help provide useful information about a person’s history and assess whether they pose threat to others. It could also be an indicator of a candidate’s trustworthiness.

While a person’s past actions do not always predict their future actions, backgrounds checks are becoming increasingly common as they help in creating a trustful and safer environment for seniors who are employing the services of home health agencies and caregivers.

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