Take Charge of Your Future

Find out if long-term-care coverage is right for you.

DURING THE PAST YEAR, Bruce Marine, a 52-year-old antiques dealer from Potomac Falls, Va., lost his father to diabetes and his mother to cancer. They had suffered for a long time -- his father endured amputations, his mother rounds of chemotherapy -- but were fiercely independent and rejected the idea of a nursing home. Instead, nurses came to their home three days a week.

Marine worries about his ability to handle his own long-term care should his health decline. So last year he bought long-term-care insurance. "We don't go on forever," he says. "Our bodies start to frazzle here and there."

Unlike traditional health insurance (including Medicare), which mainly covers medically necessary care to help those who are sick or disabled recuperate, long-term-care insurance kicks in when a policyholder suffers from a chronic condition and needs assistance with basic tasks such as bathing and eating. Most long-term-care insurance will cover the costs of nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, adult day care and even in-house care.

For some, such coverage can be a lifesaver. But whether it's right for you depends on a number of factors, including your finances, your family's health history and your tolerance for risk. This guide will help you cut through the hype and take control of the final years of your life.