At some point, most of us will need help as we age. That help may be found in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities; however, ‘aging in place’ is becoming an increasingly popular model for ensuring the elderly receive appropriate assistive services in their own homes.

“Adults want to remain healthy and independent during their senior  years, but traditional long-term care often diminishes seniors’  independence and quality of life,” says Dr. Marilyn Rantz, a professor of nursing at the University of Missouri-Columbia, an international expert in the aging-in-place movement and author of How to Find the Best Eldercare. “Aging in place enables most older adults to remain in the same environment and receive supportive health services as needed.  With this type of care, most people wouldn’t need to relocate to nursing homes.”

Finding the best in-home care involves clearly identifying needs and weighing many options. “There are a lot of different choices out there for home care,” says Ryan Whittington of Seniors Home Care. First, individuals should understand the difference between skilled care, which is often covered by Medicare or private insurance, and non-skilled care, he says.

Skilled home health care is administered by a nurse, physical therapist or other type of health professional, as ordered by a physician. Services include wound and IV care, respiratory, speech, occupational or physical therapy, and medical case management. Non-skilled home care focuses more on the chores of daily living, such as bathing, meal preparation, shopping and general housekeeping.

Medicare and private insurance may cover specific tasks, and Steve Tamboli, CEO and president of Algonquin Nurses Home Health Care, says sorting out what is covered and what is not is often among the first conversations he has with potential clients. “They have to  understand where they fall as far as coverage,” he says.

Once needs and coverage are defined, finding the best home care agency can seem daunting. “Word of mouth is a good place to begin,” says Linda Priaulx, outreach manager for Continuum Home Care.  Additional information is available via the Internet, national referral programs, hospital social workers and local geriatric care managers. Whittington recommends inquiring about whether caregivers are  employed by an agency or working independently. “If they’re  independent contractors, you may have certain risks, such as lack of workman’s comp insurance, no supervision, payroll tax concerns, etc.” He also suggests making sure all caregivers are subject to thorough background checks, are bonded and insured, and are personally compatible with the client.

Once a home-care agency and caregiver is chosen, Priaulx recommends preparing for the caregiver’s visits. “Put legal and financial documents away, including credit cards, cash and jewelry. Safety-proof the home for the caregiver and the older adult. Add grab bars, remove throw rugs, and modify the bathroom for ease of showering and toileting,” she says.

Finding a good home caregiver can allow for the benefits of aging in place and offer peace of mind for family members. By asking the right questions, you can find a trusted caregiver to help support your loved ones in their own home.