PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - Palm Beach County is the first county in Florida to regulate in-home health aides and other professionals who work for vulnerable adults.
The goal is to protect families from hiring aides with certain criminal backgrounds.
County commissioners formally adopted the rules and penalties this month. They take effect Monday.
Jamie Spungin still can't believe it.
"We thought she was amazing," she described her mother's former in-home aide.
Spungin said she hired Rainbow Delfosse to help her ailing mom around the house. Everything seemed to be going great until Spungin said she saw her mom's credit card statement.
"[It had] a plane ticket to Las Vegas on it and it actually had Rainbow's name on the credit card statement," Spungin explained.
Police arrested Delfosse, charging her with grand theft from a person 65 years or older and exploitation of an elderly person.
Scott Greenberg says he hates hearing stories like that. He runs ComForCare Home Care in Palm Beach Gardens.
He helped write new rules putting more regulations on home health aides in the county which take effect next week.
"It's to guarantee you, the consumer, the person walking through your front door is competent, capable and in fact licensed and has passed a background check," he explained.
The way it works now, non-medical health aides do not need to register with the state, or pass a background check, unless they work for a registered healthcare agency.
Palm Beach County's new rules will require every home health aide, whether they work for themselves or a registered agency, to get a license from the county. To receive that license, which looks like a photo ID, the applicant will have to pass a state and national fingerprint background check.
"I think licensure is the first step on the road to making people feel more secure," Greenberg pointed out.
He said the first question you should ask when hiring a health aide in Palm Beach County is to see their license.
It's hard to say if these new rules would've prevented Spungin's mom from falling victim, but she's happy to know the county is taking steps that could protect others.
"It's a step in the right direction, but i don't think it will prevent it from happening, it's not fool proof," she said.
Spungin launched a healthcare advocacy business, JBS Health Advocacy, after this ordeal to help other families deal with healthcare-related issues.
Critics of the new ordinance say it places an unnecessary cost on health aides (a $70 fee) and is nearly impossible to enforce.
For more information on who needs a license and how to get one, click here.