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Caregiver training in Oregon: What’s coming in 2014

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Getting older is scary enough without worrying about the qualifications of the caregiver coming to help with chores around the home. Perhaps it’s your aging parent who simply wants to age at home, but needs someone to come and help with a shower or just provide periodic companion care.

Most of us wouldn’t give it a second thought: if that person came through a reputable agency, you would assume that he or she had the background check and qualifications to do the job.

In many states, you’d assume wrong. Caregivers, despite a continual and mounting push for minimum mandatory qualifications, are often able to come into the home of an aging, vulnerable person with no criminal record background check and no formal training or qualification. In fact, several states are proposing or actively pursuing new regulations to require background checks and mandatory training for home caregivers.

Fortunately, families in Oregon have had much better assurance of caregiver qualifications for some time. Caregivers working for private pay home care agencies must have a criminal background check and an orientation and basic training program that meets state requirements before they can go into a client’s home. Caregivers who help clients manage their medication have to have special training, and all caregiver must have at least six hours of continued training each year.

Even stronger mandatory training requirements are being considered for home care workers in Oregon, especially in areas of caregiving for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. One workgroup, headed by Jon Bartholomew of the Oregon Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, is collecting training resources for caregivers into a statewide database. Ultimately the group will begin to tackle the question of mandatory training standards in dementia care as well as basic care.

In Washington State, voters twice passed a statewide referendum mandating a level of training for caregivers that matches the level required throughout the country for Certified Nursing Assistants working in nursing facilities. Proponents of this measure used the technique of comparing requirements for a home care worker to those of a nail technician or pet groomer to convince the public that mandatory training requirements were sorely in need of passing.

The voters responded by passing the measure – twice – with one of the higher passing rates for any referendum ever. Today, home care workers in Washington must be certified Home Care Aides to work in any long term care setting.

Oregon has some unique characteristics that make training and qualification of home care workers increasingly important. According to a recent Oregonian report, rural counties in the state are aging must faster than the rest of the state. These rural counties often have difficulties attracting younger workers, leaving the often-difficult tasks of caregiving to a rapidly shrinking, aging population.

There are good ideas to help support aging individuals living in rural parts of the state, however. We’ll explore that in the next in this series of articles examining the state of Caregiver Training in Oregon in 2014.

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