When caregivers breach your trust

A few months ago I began searching for someone local to help drive me, run errands, and aid in other miscellaneous excursions. I preferred someone with healthcare experience so I sought referrals from an agency representative, who then gave me a name and an email address of an independent provider who was certified to care for Medicaid home health clients.

I was doubtful but emailed Deana (pseudonym) anyways describing the services I wanted. She answered and requested an interview, during which she did most of the talking. Deana said she had more than 15 years’ experience as a nurse aide and had done home health for awhile. At the time she worked part-time for a Medicaid home health client on weekends. I knew that Medicaid paid more than I would, and I wondered how long she would work for me if she found other clients.

Deana is 50, which I thought was a good age. She said her part-time job was 20 miles away and that she needed to get other clients to support herself. She also said most Medicaid clients were not local. I told her I would need only eight hours a week, unless something unusual happened, but she felt I needed to give her more.

She wanted to come each evening, bring me dinner, do a few tasks, and then leave. When I told her that was not what I wanted, she was not pleased. On our first outing she said the nursing home was not for me and that I needed to rent an apartment with her. She would work and supervise my care. I told her I was not interested in moving into the community, and I was surprised she would suggest that when we hardly knew each other.

Each day she worked she asked how long I would need her, even though I had told her eight hours. She asked because she wanted me to write her a check to cash before the bank closed. I had never written a check for a hired hand to cash during the day they worked, but I realized if I prepaid her and let her cash the check while we were out, my day was much more pleasant.

I became concerned because she needed money so badly. When she told me how much she cared for me and talked about what we could do, she acted like I was “the goose that laid the golden egg.”

* * *

At times Deana or her boyfriend Scott (pseudonym) stopped in at the facility unannounced. Since Scott did not have a job, he called wanting to wash and detail my van or do other maintenance tasks to earn money. Scott said he would charge less than a detailer or garage, but In order for him to work on my van, I had to write him a check for the oil or any parts and a separate check for the labor. He also wanted both checks before he did any work. I did not like this but I let him do it. While he had my van he swept it out without asking and said I owed him $80. I gave him $30 and told him not to do anything unless I authorized it.

When Scott returned the van he said my antifreeze needed changed. I decided that I would not write anymore checks to Scott. I told him to use my credit card because I thought to myself that I could keep better track of things. Afterward, when I checked my credit card, I saw a $51 charge. Scott had told me he put $41 worth of gas in the van. When I asked what the extra $10 went for, he said, “Just pop!” I could not believe he would buy something and not repay me. I knew from then on I would have to watch my credit card closely. I liked Deana and she took good care of me, but I did not want Scott weaseling into my life.

During an outing in late January, my van died. I wanted to call a tow truck, but Deana called Scott instead. While we waited in the cold van, I sent Scott to the store with my credit card for a battery. When the battery was installed he found the alternator belt was off. We made a trip to a local garage where they put it back on for nothing.

While we were waiting in the cold van, I told Deana that I would pay Scott for helping. But Deana thought I should buy his lunch also, and I reluctantly agreed.

At lunch Scott was the first one finished. He became restless and asked when he would be paid. I said I would write his check where my arm could be elevated properly—at the nursing home. When Scott heard that he began to pout, saying he needed to be paid before 5 p.m. so that he could make a payment at the pawn shop. I told him there was no way I could pay him any quicker.

Since Scott was with us I asked Deana if we could stop at the store to pick up some necessary things. Scott said I could get money for him from my credit card. He told Deana to charge a small item on my card and get extra cash, which she did, but the cashier wanted my PIN number. I told her I did not have one (a fib) because I did not want them to know what it was.

Looking back I suppose Deana and I were codependent. She needed money and I wanted to get out or have company at the nursing home. But I began to feel more and more nervous when she was around. She had told me about her life and cried to me when she and Scott had a fight. Whenever we had lunch she felt Scott should eat with us. They both felt I should help them get started on the right road financially. But I did not like their shady tactics.

* * *

I was sick one day in February and I sent Deana on some errands for me. She got me a few things and returned my credit card. A few days later I found an unauthorized $7.81 at a fast food restaurant the day I was sick. When I asked Deana about the charge, she said she was stressed that day, got something to eat, and forgot about it. I was angry that she took advantage of me and deducted that charge from her next pay.

In March Deana began a five-day-a-week Medicaid home health job. She cried because her boyfriend's vehicle used too much gas and she did not have enough cash to get her through until the first Medicaid payment check arrived. She said eventually she would get a smaller vehicle, but until then she asked to borrow $100. I refused to lend her money.

With two jobs Deana pared her time with me to four hours a week. That only allowed time for her to run an errand and do a few things here at the nursing home. But sometimes I needed her to work a couple more hours on another day, which she wanted to be paid for in advance. I did it, reluctantly, and then became upset when she showed up late. She was getting paid for hours she did not work.

I again discovered an unauthorized $10 charge on my credit card, but I decided not to tell her. I also did not want to give her the opportunity to use my card again. She bragged about her larger paychecks and that she was paying on a smaller vehicle. That evening she worked to pay off some of the hours she owed me. She worked another day after that, and I had no idea it would be her last.

At the end of March another unauthorized charge for $25.25 was posted on my card. I called the credit card company to dispute the charges. They said the earlier $10 charge was for gas. But they would not say what the $25.25 charge was. They also told me that because I had allowed someone to use my credit card, I could not dispute the charges.

I emailed Deana and she admitted the charges were from her. She said she did it because I would not lend her money. She offered to bring the money to me, but I did not want her to try to manipulate her way back into my life. I told her she had committed petty theft and that I could call the police and press charges. Then I demanded my storage bins and my keys to the facility to give to the nurses.

I was angry that she had used me and I have not had any more communication with her. A few days ago my keys and one of my bins were returned to the nurses, but there was no mention of the $35.25 she owed.

Many people who need home healthcare can be taken advantage of by their caregivers. We must be vigilant about who we hire to give us care. Deana said she had been background checked to work with Medicaid clients. Now I have to report that she charged small amounts on my credit card, which were not repaid. That could jeopardize her ability to work with future Medicaid clients.

No matter how justified a caregiver feels in taking even small amounts from someone they care for, it is stealing. Since Deana is no longer here I have noticed other things missing from my room. I will probably never know if she took them. But I do know that in life it is necessary to trust others in order to survive. However, I will be more careful about whom I trust in the future.

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