Q: Now that my parents are in long-term care facilities, I'm beginning to think about my own future care needs. At what age should I start thinking about buying a long-term care policy?

Generally, the younger you are at the time you purchase, the less expensive the premium and the greater the likelihood you will be health-qualified and accepted for coverage. The best rates and range of services are available when a person is still healthy.

Middle age is the best time to think about buying long-term care insurance because that's when a person is most likely to qualify for a policy and when premium costs are at their lowest. The premium at age 50 is significantly less than ages 60 or 70.

If there is a pre-existing conditions clause, the policy may exclude certain medical problems. Some pre-existing conditions that typically exclude a person from coverage include Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis or AIDS. However, other types of pre-existing conditions, like diabetes or stroke, might not disqualify a person from long-term care insurance eligibility.

Without long-term-care insurance, which typically covers the cost of nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and in-home care, the last years of life can be financially devastating for seniors and their families unless a person has the funds to pay for their own care.

Industry statistics estimate that the 45-to-54 demographic accounts for about 1 in 5 long-term care policies, while those 55 to 64 make up more than half of those buying the coverage, according to a 2010 report from the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.