At least three times a day, I am emailed or called by a sales representative who is selling newest and greatest program out there to improve the lives of the older residents of this county.

Products and services like medical equipment, supplemental insurance, legal advice, money management all find there way here. In most cases, after a quick look at the fine print you can find the catch and safely delete the email or ignore the call all together. Our agency doesn’t promote products that could in the end hurt an older adult financially.

When my deputy director, Sara McDonald, told me about the C-Screen program, we discussed some of our ideas and set up a short meeting. Chris Rothwell and his team from C-Screen came in to tell us about what they were working on. There was no pushy or gimmicky sales pitch; what happened was a conversation about an evidence-based tool that potentially was useful to older adults and the AAA.

The C-Screen tool analyzes the hiring practices of an entity. Based on the practices and responses of an agency, a score is delivered. Some of the factors that are included in the score are things that one would think are common practices, but sadly are not always. Drug screens, criminal checks and abuse clearances are just a few items that are examined.

These hiring and interviewing practices are important to the insurance industry for risk reasons. If you are operating with a high degree of risk, chances are the insurance company will want more to cover your operation. It is a risk to them to take you on and provide coverage if you are just hiring anyone to go into someone’s home and provide direct care. Their goal of reducing risk for financial reasons helps our goal to keep people safe.

After this very short meeting the ideas began to flow and what emerged was our C-Screen Pilot. This pilot, as all critically important pilots, had at first be envisioned as a tool in protective services to make sure agencies were using direct care workers that were properly vetted and “safe” to have in an older adult’s home. As we met, we realized the true potential of the product we were working with, it was evident to us our time was well spent and this product will improve the care of older adults in Lackawanna County and all of Pennsylvania.

Typically, we don’t depend on ranking systems too much here. They are subjective in most cases and can be misleading. C-Screen is different. This tool was designed for the insurance industry, not for the Area Agencies on Aging. The tool is rooted in the data and provides an objective guide for decision making.

For us, the rating has helped us in a few ways. It quickly helps us determine what agencies are making sure they are hiring the best candidates and making the safety of the older adult the priority . It also helps us determine who should qualify for a rate increase objectively.

Lastly, it helps with a little-known task we are required to do with our vendors: monitoring. Each year, we go out to the community and spend time at a portion of our vendors’ offices, checking to make sure the operation is not violating any regulations and they are on-boarding quality employees. C-Screen helps us know the workers at an agency have been vetted and they are good candidates.

Daily, all of us who work at the Area Agency on Aging get the calls asking for recommendations for personal care providers, nursing facilities and other skilled care facilities from a concerned loved one or an older adult who is trying to decide what to do. This tool gives us objectivity and guides us away from personal opinions.

C-Screen is a tool to be used as part of the decision-making process. It is not designed or promoted to be the decider. When deciding, you need to weigh in all factors.

You don’t know if they keep schedules or have lots of call offs or have an overly restrictive visiting hour policy if you just rely on the tool. Deciding which entity you choose for home and community-based services requires research, conversations and an objective look at the entity. In the end, it is an individual’s or a families’ decision, and no score can supersede what you feel is the right choice.

You can find our provider ratings on our website, www.lackawannaaging.org/c-screen, or on our Facebook page. You can also speak to someone in the office during business hours about a score. We provide this information as a guide to help you with a difficult and important decision, it can never replace you as the decision maker.

Jason Kavulich is the director of Lackawanna County’s Area Agency on Aging. For more information on services available, call 570-963-6740.