More than 42 million individuals provided daily care for an adult family member in 2009, according to data published by the American Association of Retired Persons. Nearly 62 million more provided at least some care throughout the year.

That number will likely continue to grow as baby boomers age. So what can children do now to protect the long-term interests of themselves and their loved ones? A representative with AARP encourages families to have candid conversations about future care options. Understanding an elderly parent’s preferences and goals can make difficult decisions easier.

It is also wise to have the proper paperwork in place. An advance care directive can be an adult child’s best line of defense if a parent should become incapacitated. A directive will typically include a health care proxy, durable power of attorney and living will. The health care proxy will grant someone the power to make medical decisions for an elder, while the power of attorney bestows financial control. A living will specifies instructions for end of life care.

Depending upon the family dynamics at play, many children find it beneficial to consult with financial planners, care managers and qualified attorneys who can help tease out disagreements and settle disputes. For example, one sibling might manage a parent’s finances while another takes charge of shuttling mom or dad to doctor’s appointments.

In any case, children should be wary of their own health, particularly when providing care means moving in with a parent. Among female caregivers aged 50 and older, 20 percent reported symptoms of depression.