Fifteen years ago, long-term care insurance was not on many people's radar. Now it's a nearnecessity in their financial plans.

So say experts in the field, including Kathy Liguzinski, who specializes in longterm care planning for the Retirement Resource Center in Western Hills. With longer life expectancies, "we must face the realities of aging and at some point needing care," Liguzinski notes. "Providing care can have serious consequences on an individual's family and finances. Long-term care insurance can help preserve assets, allow choices about where and how care is given and give peace of mind to the individual and their family."

Product evolution has made policies more flexible than they were in the early days, when they were known as nursing home policies, according to Liguzinski. Now LTC policies allow the insured to receive care in the setting of their choice, whether it is at home, in an assisted living facility, adult day-care center or a nursing home.

So who should consider LTC? Generally, those with assets between $500,000 and $2.5 million, says Mark Kleespies, a partner at THOR Investment Management in Anderson Township.

People in that range can afford the LTC premiums, but can't afford to insure themselves alone without eating through their assets. Those with assets higher than $2.5 million can afford to insure themselves and bypass LTC, Kleespies adds.

Those with roughly less than half a million may not be able to afford the LTC premiums, which can be pricey. A typical premium range for someone who is 55 is $2,500 to $4,500 per year. Premiums go up with age, so someone near 50 might consider LTC coverage starting in the early 50s.

But, Liguzinski advises, buying at a younger age and working with a long-term care professional to customize a policy can make affordable LTC options for families and individuals.

LTC insurance covers an array of treatment options and will pay for all levels of care: skilled, intermediate and custodial, Liguzinski maintains, "LTC coverage may help individuals fund the care they need to stay in their homes longer," according to Kleespies. LTC policies also offer a number of bells and whistles, and a choice of individual or couples' coverage, which gives you so many dollars to share between two people, he says.