Health insurance can be a saving grace when it comes to paying for medical expenses. After all, a single surgical procedure can cost tens of thousands of dollars, and prescriptions, hospital stays, and other treatments may saddle you with a huge stack of bills. A standard health insurance policy, however, does not cover long-term care or personal care services provided at the insured's home, such as help with activities of daily living like bathing, eating, and dressing. Though these are not healthcare services per se, they may be necessary for elderly, injured, or very ill people. Without the proper insurance, the expenses can break the bank.

Four Signs You Need Long-term Care Insurance

Here are some signs that it may be wise for you to consider purchasing long-term care insurance.

1. You are older than 55.

Although many people in their late fifties and sixties are healthy and lead robust lives, people tend to become weaker and more prone to illness as they age and aging increases the odds that long-term care will be required.

It is important to note, however, that it becomes more difficult to qualify for a long-term care policy the older you get. This is because the insurance company may perceive you as too high of a risk (find out How an Insurance Company Decides to Insure You). Therefore, it's prudent to look into long-term care insurance while you are still healthy and young enough to qualify. Ideally, you should start shopping for a policy when you are still well under 70.

Applying in your mid-fifties pays since developing a significant medical issue alone can disqualify you for coverage. What's more, rates tend to be lower the younger you are when you buy.

2. You have a family history of debilitating illness.
People with debilitating illnesses, especially elderly people, may need a lot of help on a day-to-day basis. Those suffering from Alzheimer's, in particular, require a substantial amount of long-term careā€”in fact, it could mean long-term care for the rest of your life.

Whether it's due to Alzheimer's, cancer, or another serious condition, daily tasks like food preparation, getting dressed, and taking a walk may all require the supervision or assistance of a professional personal care worker.

The rates for professional care workers can be as high as $20 an hour. On a long-term basis, this expense adds up extremely quickly. Fortunately, long-term care insurance can help offset many of the associated costs.

3. You don't have any children.

Many people who fall ill or who otherwise become disabled in old age rely on their children to help them with the long-term care they require. Some will even allow their parents to move in so they can be provided with round-the-clock help and supervision. Children can help with cleaning, cooking, dressing, laundry, and other necessary household chores.

If, however, you don't have any children, or your children are not in a position to help you, then you may end up needing long-term care from others. Most people don't like to think about such a situation, but without children, being left without the care you need is an even greater risk.

4. You work (or worked) in a dangerous field.

If you are working or worked in a job that exposed you to considerable health risks, then you may have an even higher chance of needing long-term care in the future. The greater the probability, the greater the need for long-term care insurance. Occupations in coal mining, asbestos removal, boxing, or others involving exposure to hazardous materials or physical threats can correlate to a higher risk of developing illnesses like mesothelioma, lung cancer, brain-related issues, and more.

Conclusion

It can be difficult to imagine a time in the future when you become so debilitated that you need help doing basic everyday activities. However, if you don't plan for this scenario, you could face real financial hardships later on in life. By the time you reach the age when you may need long-term care, you may no longer be able to work, and the burden of paying for it may fall on your spouse or children (and if you don't have a spouse or children, then you may be in even more trouble). Plan to start saving up, and keep in mind that long-term care insurance may be a sound investment if you meet any of the criteria listed above.