(WTNH) – Millions of Americans provide unpaid caregiving to family or loved ones, often absorbing the costs of care from their own pockets. We are Stretching Your Dollar with a look at the financial toll and ways to ease the burden.

When you think of a caregiver, perhaps a home health care nurse or aid comes to mind. However, experts say they only represent a small percentage of the profession. More and more Americans are taking on the title, in many cases, without pay.

“More than 48 million family caregivers are advocating and providing hands on care and caregiving long distance to assist older adults, their parents, their aunts and uncles, their spouses, their siblings. And they are providing a value of $600 billion in unpaid care,” said Amy Goyer with AARP.

And with crippling inflation, it’s taking a financial toll on families nationwide. Goyer said she’s been a caregiver much of her adult life.

“We tend to spend about 26% of our income on out-of-pocket expenses. You know, that’s an average of $7,000 a year across the country. Some spend much more, some spend much less. But that’s part of the reason Medicare does not cover everything,” Goyer explained.

In some cases Medicaid does, but not everyone qualifies. Some options can take the edge off the financial burden, including tax breaks. You might be able to claim your loved ones as a dependent or you may be able to deduct their out-of-pocket expenses.

Be sure to check out what benefits your employer offers. There’s also help if your loved one is a veteran.

“My dad was enrolled in VA health care and he was able to receive home based primary care. They have grants to help with with home modifications. Sometimes their caregivers can get paid by the VA,” Goyer said.

The important takeaway is to take a moment to plan. You’re encouraged to think about the fact that if your loved ones are going to need some help, you might need to step in.