There are decisions that are essentially weightless—what movie to see, what outfit to wear, where to go for dinner—and there are those that have life-altering consequences. Choosing a caregiver falls into the latter category. The process is a long one, often taking weeks or even months to find the right fit. But the end result can be life-changing for your loved one and peace of mind for you. There are a variety of ways to pay for caregiving services including long-term care insurance policies, traditional medical coverage and state and federal programs. Depending on your situation, it’s important to consider all options before you start the search.

Once you know what you can afford, you should set out to find a caregiver who is right for your family. This means creating a clear and specific job description and interviewing candidates carefully to be sure the candidates understand what is expected of them. For example, it is important to determine what types of specialized care your loved one needs and to make sure the caregiver you choose has experience with them. If your loved one is living with mobility challenges, it’s also a good idea to make sure the caregiver you hire can lift them and transfer from bed to wheelchair.

You should also ask for references and contact them to verify the caregiver’s competence, compassion and personality. It’s a good idea to speak to former employers, as well as with friends and neighbors. They can provide invaluable insight into the quality of the caregiving service provided.

Lastly, you should take the time to communicate with your loved one about what they’re looking for in a caregiver. They may have specific pet peeves or things they don’t like, or they may prefer someone who is a certain gender. This will help to ensure that the relationship goes smoothly.

Once you’ve screened candidates, you’ll need to create an employment contract and have both parties sign it. This doesn’t have to be complicated, but it will help lay out the terms of employment and make the expectations clear for both parties. For example, you might include a statement that the hourly rate is negotiable.

One final note is to be vigilant about the possibility of theft or fraud. It does happen, but it’s much rarer than many people think. To be safe, you might want to lock up or remove anything that is particularly valuable, such as heirloom jewelry. In addition, you can always report any concerns to a home care agency. Or, if you are hiring privately, you can work directly with the caregiver to address any issues that arise. You can also keep a close eye on your loved one’s belongings and their location, and remind them to secure the door when they leave the house. This will help to deter any unintentional theft. how to find a caregiver