At-home health care alert

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by Meredith Yeomans

azfamily.com

Posted on September 29, 2010 at 5:54 PM

Updated Thursday, Sep 30 at 12:04 PM

CHANDLER - Renee Johnson's father, who has Alzheimers, moved in with her earlier this year.

“His Alzheimers does go in and out,” Renee said. “He is focused some of the time.”

Taking care of a loved one around the clock can be exhausting.

So, Renee and her husband hired a Scottsdale-based company called Caring Senior Service.

“We were calling to see if somebody can come out in a week or so so we could plan to go out on a date because we haven't in about 6 months,” she said.

Renee says she chose the company because, as the website says, caregivers are carefully screened by conducting both identity and background checks.

But, Renee says the morning after she and her husband left for that date she noticed a couple of bracelets were missing.

And that's not all.

“I had them right in here,” Renee said as she showed 3 On Your Side where she usually keeps the jewelry.

Renee says the caregiver stole about $5,600 in cash and jewelry, including her late mother's wedding ring.

“My dad had just given that to me right before he moved in with us here so it means a lot to him too,” Renee said.

Charges were never filed due to what police say was a lack of evidence, but we took the claims to company owner Richard Duame.

“My heart sinks when this happens,” Duame said. “I hate it.”

Duame says in six years and more than 1,000 clients, they've only had a handful of problems with caregivers.

3 On Your Side wanted to take a closer look at the company's record, but we couldn't.

“There is no oversight by the state of Arizona for home care service,” Bob Hebert explained.

Hebert, who runs the Arizona Non-Medical Home Care Association, says Arizona is one of 23 states that does not require a license to run an at home care service.

“I strongly believe that licensure is very important and we should have it in Arizona because it's a tool to protect the consumer,” Hebert said.

Caring Senior Service does do background checks, but in the case of the caregiver who showed up at Renee's house, she reportedly used a fake social security number to get this job in the first place.

“Our employee who hired her did not follow up on it,” Duame said.

That employee and the caregiver have since been fired.

In an attempt to make things right, Duame mailed Renee a check for $5,600 to compensate for her missing items.

Still, she wants anyone who needs help caring for someone at home to hear this warning:

“I just want to make a point everybody needs to do their own background check,” she said.

It turns out, the caregiver who showed up at Renee's home has an arrest warrant out of Arkansas for breaking and entering.

We're also told she has a warrant for her arrest in Gilbert.

Caring Senior Service filed a complaint against the caregiver with the Arizona State Board of Nursing in August.

She's now being investigated and according to the Board of Nursing's online verification system, her nursing assistant's license expired September 1.

Background checks can also be made through the Superior Court website and the Arizona Supreme Court website.

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