CORVALLIS - There's no place like home, Dorothy proclaimed in "The Wizard of Oz," and today's older people heartily agree. Most would prefer to stay in their own homes rather than move into a nursing home or other group setting, studies show, but often they need support services in their homes in order to be safe and comfortable there.

Lining up those services is a challenge that typically falls to family members or others close to the older person. Fortunately, help is available from a wide variety of sources, according to a new publication from the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Hospital discharge planners, the local area's agency on aging, and local seniors' groups are good sources of referrals to in-home care providers, recommends the publication, "Hiring and Working Successfully with In-home Care Providers."

First steps are to learn about the kinds of in-home care services available in your area and to develop a profile of care needs.

"Your needs as a caregiver are also high priority," the publication notes. "An assessment should consider your need for respite, help with tasks, and replacement help if you are employed or have other competing responsibilities."

It's important to clarify legal, tax, and financial responsibilities related to employing in-home workers. The OSU publication discusses insurance coverage and laws regarding Social Security and tax withholding, a person's eligibility to work in the United States, and other employer issues.

A home-care agency takes on many of the employer's responsibilities, the report says, though you also can hire workers directly. The publication includes checklists of questions to ask prospective employees and home-care agencies. It also suggests ways to ensure that the working relationship is a smooth one.

"Hiring and Working Successfully with In-home Care Providers," PNW 547, is available by mail for $2.50 per copy. Send your request and check or money order payable to OSU to: Publication Orders, Extension & Station Communications, OSU, 422 Kerr Administration, Corvallis, OR 97331-2119. Or view it on the Web at:

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Sally Bowman, 541-737-1020