Living at home, whether in a long-beloved house or a new rental, has enormous benefits for seniors, mentally and physically. In familiar surroundings, they also hold close to their long-time community. In-home care can become a necessity.

The front steps grow harder to navigate. The cabinets, harder to reach. For some with debilitating infirmities, remaining at home becomes impossible without hiring an aide. An increasing number of families face this dilemma, as studies show the senior market is booming. But how do you choose in-home care for your parents?

Get Started on Your In-Home Care Search

1. Determine the level of need: Is your mom lonely and just needs groceries? Or does she need more intensive medical care from a licensed nurse? Will a few hours a day suffice, or overnight? The answers could mean the difference between hiring a basic caregiver or an in-home care health aide with medical experience. Narrowing down which services you need is important to finding the right fit for a caregiver–and if you truly need one. Perhaps a weekly visit from a church volunteer plus regular grocery delivery can meet a lot of aging-in-place needs. If you’re unsure about need, a geriatric care managercan help guide the process.

2. Call City Hall: Many municipalities have a senior’s agency or office these days. They will usually have a list of local resources. The town could offer services you hadn’t explored. They may also have information on reliable caregiver companies, or even support programs, including groups for family members struggling with the issues of keeping an elderly relative at home.

3. Research funding: Did your father fight in Korea? Is your mom on a fixed income? Programs through agencies such as the Veteran’s Administration or the United Way might offer subsidies, or subsidized assistance. Such organizations may also have recommendations for agencies that supply caregivers. The same goes for Medicaid.

4. Check local listings: Search the Internet. Check with local senior homes and adult day-care centers, even if they don’t offer home healthcare, they might have recommendations. And ask around–your friends might know someone who can provide care. If you engage a geriatric care manager, they might have suggestions as well. Local chapters of nonprofits such as the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association could offer resources. So too a church, synagogue, community center or other religious institution. .

5. Three little words–licensed, bonded, insured: With any provider or agency you find, do your homework. You want someone who is licensed, bonded and insured. These credentials should be readily available. Certifications should include coursework offered by a reputable agency. Local chapters of the American Red Cross, for example, offers family caregiver courses. There are also courses for the position of certified nurse assistant. Bonds expire, as can licensing, so make sure all of their paperwork remains valid. If you’re working with an agency, ask about staffing rotations and the chain of command should problems arise.

The more you know before you start, the smoother the process for everyone involved.