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Families: questions when hiring in-home heath care worker

Families can take precautions if they plan to open their home to a health aide or other professional to care for an elderly or disabled loved one.

“People have to be prepared that what has solely been their own home will somehow become a place of businesses,” Mark Gerhardstein, superintendent of the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities Services said. “They may have to be a little more cautious about safety and security.”

Jessica Hawk, the parent of a disabled child and a member of the Direct Care Worker Advisory Group, created by the biennial budget law that took effect July 1 said, there is a lot of concern over this right now.

“It is so important that parents individually screen these people,” Hawk said.

Home health aide Marcus Fox, 37, was arrested by Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputies Nov. 1 and charged with rape of a “substantially impaired victim” who suffers from Alzheimer’s and dementia. Deputies said Fox worked as an in-home care aide in the man’s Washington Twp. home.

Fox, who has been fired from his job at the Bright Star agency in Centerville, told reporters shortly after his arrest that he has a sex addiction and made a mistake. He remains in the Montgomery County Jail. Bail is set at $500,000.

Fox is not listed as a provider for the Ohio Department of Medicaid, though Bright Star is in the state system. Fox also is not certified through the state-tested nurses aide program run by the Ohio Department of Health, a common training program many home health aides pursue.

Pat Luers, owner and president of Bright Star, has said that action was taken when the company learned of the allegations, including removing Fox from all patient care and notifying proper authorities. According to Luers,”stringent screening standards were followed when this individual was hired, including criminal background checks, none of which indicated any cause for concern.”

Since 1996, direct care workers in Ohio whose services are paid for with state and federal funds must undergo fingerprint-based criminal records checks, according to the Ohio Department of Medicaid.

On Jan. 1, Ohio House Bill 487 took effect, increasing the number of criminal offenses that can disqualify an individual from serving as a home health aide from 55 to 130 whose services are paid for with state and federal funds. Additionally, the legislation requires a re-check of criminal records every five years for home health aides.

Laurie Petrie, communications director for the Council on Aging of Southwest Ohio, said while most home health aides are reliable and caring individuals, there is always a certain risk when someone comes into the home, no matter the profession.

Gerhardstein suggests asking for references, not just from agencies, but other family the aide has cared for, how long they have been in the business, how far they would have to travel and their physical stamina.

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