As the cooler temperatures arrive in Arizona, many of our relatives will be arriving as well. This is a wonderful time of year, when our loved ones join us for holiday celebrations and outdoor activities.

For some families, this means seeking help for their elderly family members. They may not get around as well as they used to, or perhaps a job requires you to leave them alone for long periods during the day or even a few days at a time.

In Arizona, roughly 400 companies provide some type of in-home care, such as cooking, cleaning, companionship and transportation. As an unregulated industry, it's important to do some research so that you feel comfortable, safe and confident with the caregiver(s) you select. Although most organizations offering home help are ethical and trustworthy, there are a few points to consider while choosing the right provider.

• What services does the company provide? Common services include transportation, cooking, light housekeeping, companionship and personal care like bathing and dressing assistance. Most caregiver services will offer to take a client out to lunch, for a walk or to a doctor's appointment.

• What are the charges for service? Make sure that you are aware of any hidden costs. Does the company charge for evaluations or intakes? Do they offer discounts for 24-hour care? How do the charges differ for companion or personal care? Are there additional trip charges or premium rates for weekend service?

• What are the qualifications of your caregivers? Are caregivers given background checks? What type of training do they have? Are caregivers contractors or employees? Are they insured, bonded and covered under Workers' Compensation? If they provide transportation, do they have a valid driver's license and up-to-date insurance?

• Will we always have the same caregiver? How far in advance do I have to request service before it begins? What if I want to change my care schedule? Can I reach someone after hours with a question or complaint?

These talking points may seem obvious, but the importance of selecting a reputable company with trustworthy caregivers cannot be overemphasized. Finding the right match for your family member can turn into a long-term, rewarding relationship that benefits everyone.

Jay Gjurgevich is general manager of Christian Companion Senior Care in Phoenix, a national company providing in-home care from caregivers who are screened, bonded, insured and trained to provide companion, personal and spiritual care. For more information, call (480) 285-1774 or visit www.christianseniorcare.com.

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