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Posted: July 31, 2008

No Substitute for Vigilance

Why Are Hired Caregivers Bonded?

We hear it all the time: "Caregivers should be licensed, insured, and bonded."

"Licensed" is easy to understand. "Insured" is a little more complicated because there are so many different kinds of insurance, but still it's a concept we understand. But what is "bonding," and why do we want it?

Caregivers seek to be bonded as a way of reassuring their clients that if the caregiver steals from them, the clients will be compensated.

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Most caregiver agencies "bond" their caregivers. They purchase a bond that covers their employees. Should one of their employees steal from a client, after all the requirements have been met the bond will compensate or re-pay the client up to the amount of the bond. A typical employee bond appears to be $5,000.

Caregivers who do not work as employees of an agency can bond themselves. It is less common for an individual caregiver to be bonded, but many are.

At first glance it looks like requiring your caregiver to be bonded would protect you against loss if he or she steals from you. Unfortunately, the process is a little more complicated than that.

Generally, before the bonding company will reimburse you for theft by a bonded individual, that person must be arrested, charged and convicted of the theft in court. If all of those things happen, then the bond reimburses you for your loss up to the limit of the bond. But realize this process can take from several months to several years – even if there is good evidence.

If there is no conviction -- even if you "know" the bonded individual stole -- there is no reimbursement by the bond.

Unless you happen to catch your caregiver walking out with your mother's jewelry or in the act of pawning it, it is very difficult to prove theft. In many cases, we don't realize something is missing for an unknown amount of time. We may be quite certain that something has “walked out of the house,” but if some time passes before the loss is noticed and reported, it is next to impossible to prove. Without very strong legal evidence, authorities won't pursue a criminal case.

So, in the end, a bonded caregiver is a nice thing, but bonding won't replace your need to keep a sharp eye and remove temptations. For the sake of both the caregiver and yourself, lock up the valuables, credit cards and checkbooks.

Molly can be reached at molly@eldercareteam.com. Her website is www.eldercareteam.com.

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