As elder parents reach the point where they need assistance to handle activities of daily living that they can no longer manage, their adult children may face a choice: Do they step in and become their parent’s caregiver, or should they hire outside help?

A primary benefit to providing care themselves is that they can ensure that their elder loved one’s best interests are a top priority. No one is going to want the best for their parent more than they do. It’s only natural. Whereas while a paid health services worker might perform admirably, at the end of the day it’s still a job. For adult children caregivers, it’s about family.

While it may be a labor of love, it’s not one without costs. Money should never become more important than family or health but, in reality, financial costs are a significant consideration.

Family caregivers generally work for free. Initially, this may be attractive as it might save the family from paying someone else to provide care. Unfortunately, the result is often just the opposite. The parents and children find that family caregiving often ends up costing significant out-of-pocket amounts despite the savings.

These costs can run the full gambit of expenses. According to research by the AARP, family caregivers spend on average about 20 percent of their annual incomes on expenses related to elder caregiving. If the elder parent has their own financial resources, this may be less of a concern. If not, adult children are faced with cutting back on their own spending, which can affect their families and, ironically, retirement savings.

Further, there are ways that a parent can pay a child to provide this type of care. Your elder care attorney can discuss this with you in more detail but you should know it is an option. Further, keep in mind that there are significant tax benefits to providing financial support for an elder dependent, and caregivers are allowed up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave pursuant to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

The ultimate benefit to caring for an elder parent is that it’s immensely rewarding. Every relationship is different, but no matter what, personally ensuring that mom or dad is getting the care they need is priceless. Don’t lose site, however, that family caregivers must take care of themselves. It’s a tremendous commitment. Remember, as a caregiver, you don’t have to do everything. Community senior centers, elder daycares, and respite care services are a few of the many options for finding a healthy balance. A caregiver is no good to their parent if they require care themselves.

We know this article may raise more questions than it answers. If you find yourself either needing to rely on your adult children for care or you have a parent who needs assistance with activities of daily living, do not wait to seek advice from an elder law attorney. Contact us with your questions so we can schedule a time to help you and your family.