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An elderly resident using a walker passes a golden retriever in the New Mark Care Center in Kansas City, Mo. - 

Taking care of aging parents is emotionally draining and time consuming. It's also hard on finances. Personal finance columnist Sandra Block offers five cost-cutting suggestions that don't compromise care.

Her five areas to look into are: Claim your parent as a dependent; deduct your parent's medical expenses; find out if you qualify for government help; pay a family member to provide care; and don't overlook your own long-term care needs.

The last one is critical. It's all too easy to fall behind on planning for your own old age while caring for someone else. Many family caregivers look to long-term care insurance to spare their children at least some of the financial burden when their old. But as Block notes, long-term care is often too expensive for hard-pressed family budgets. That doesn't mean there aren't steps to take:

There are low-cost steps you can take, says Alyson Burns, director of the AARP's Long-Term Care Awareness Campaign. For example, it costs nothing to draw up a living will and a health care proxy, she says. If you plan to stay in your home, low-cost modifications such as railings and better lighting can reduce the risk of disabling accidents.

Follow Chris Farrell at @cfarrellecon