It happened. You realize your mom, dad or another loved one is no longer fully independent. The reasons are numerous: They are not keeping up with their medication. They may have given up their car keys and aren’t able to run errands and get to appointments. They may have more trouble cooking, bathing or dressing on their own. Perhaps they just need extra help after rehab or a hospital stay.

Where do you turn? What is the best way to find a reliable person with the right skills to thoughtfully tend to your loved one.

There are two basic options to finding a caregiver for these situations. One is to enlist the services of a home care agency. The other option is to hire a caregiver on your own.

For those who find themselves in need of a caregiver, here are some things to consider:

Do you want to become an employer?
There’s a lot that goes into hiring a private caregiver. Should you go that route, make sure you are ready to take on all the responsibilities that come with being an employer. It starts with the challenge of finding and interviewing potential candidates. Once you’ve narrowed down the field, you then have to make sure you protect yourself and your loved one by running background checks, arranging for drug screenings and getting proof of a potential caregiver’s workers compensation, liability insurance and professional certifications and licenses. A private agency handles all of this up front as part of their hiring process, removing both the headache and risks of taking it on yourself.

Once hired, there’s also the matter of payroll and taxes.  When employing someone on your own, you must complete all necessary forms and document payments. An agency handles all of this and stays up to date on tax codes and other state and federal compliancy laws.

Do you know what level of care your loved one requires?
The scope of support caregivers can offer is quite broad. A reputable agency will guide you in identifying what type of support best meets your needs. For example, you don’t want to pay the higher hourly wage of a registered or licensed practical nurse when a certified nursing assistant has all the proper skills and training to do the job.

“I think the single, largest misconception people have about hiring a caregiver on their own is that the most important thing is to save money,” says Bebe Bryan, executive director of Jewish HomeLife’ The One Group. “While you may be able to hire someone on your own for a few dollars less, the ease, expertise and comfort of working with an agency is really worth it in the long run.”

 What is your back-up plan if your independent caregiver gets sick or leaves?  
Let’s say you find a great independent caregiver and have the time to manage the administrative end of employing them. What happens when that caregiver gets sick, injured or quits – or maybe it’s something as simple as car trouble preventing them from showing up? This is especially stressful when the person responsible for ensuring coverage for their loved one has his or her own work and family obligations.   It’s times like these that having a standing relationship with a private home care agency is invaluable.

With its depth and breadth of professionals, an agency will get someone to your loved one’s side in the case of an unforeseen circumstance. The same is true in non-emergency situations. Sometimes a caregiver you think is perfect may not mesh well with your loved one. A caring agency will play matchmaker and not give up until they find the right person for each client. If this happens with a private caregiver, the time and effort of having to start a new search repeats itself each time a caregiver doesn’t work out.

An agency’s bench strength also comes into play should your loved one’s needs change. Aunt Rachael may have only needed help running errands but, after having surgery, now needs the help of registered nurse as well.

 What matters most?
In the end it’s about minimizing risk and determining what gives you the most peace of mind. Only you can decide which solution is right for you.

“There are just some things in life you just don’t need to take chances with,” says Bebe. “I think the care of a loved one is one of those things.”