Many of us will experience a critical illness at some point in our lives…it is just a matter of rolling the dice. Medical advances and increasing life expectancies mean that we have a better chance of surviving a critical illness.
However, surviving a critical illness can be one of the most difficult challenges in life and often brings overwhelming medical and financial burdens on the person and their family. There is so much to deal with-making decisions about care, remaining financially stable and meeting the family’s day-to-day needs all while coping with the huge amount of emotional stress and fears. The person and their family may experience even more emotional turmoil if the roles in the family are changed or there is a disruption in their regular routines.
- 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women are predicted to develop heart disease in their lifetime.
- 1 in 2 heart attack victims are under 65 years old.
- There are 40,000 to 50,000 strokes in Canada each year.
- An estimated 2,798 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer every week.
- During their lifetime 1 in 2.4 men and 1 in 2.7 women, living in Canada, will develop cancer.
- 1 in 9 women will develop breast cancer.
- 1 in 11 men and 1 in 18 women will develop lung cancer.
- An estimated 50,000 Canadians, twice as many women as men, have Multiple Sclerosis.
Statistics sources: Heart and Stroke Foundation, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, National Cancer Institute of Canada, Canadian Cancer Statistics.
- 86% of hospitalized heart attack patients survive. The percentage is higher for those with their first heart attack, and lower for those with recurrent heart attacks.
- 80% of stroke patients survive the initial event. Of all stroke victims, 75% will be left with a disability.
- Cancer victims of all ages are living longer than before.
- Patients recovering from critical illness have been shown to be at risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD).
- Critical illness causes significant changes in almost all the organ-systems of the body.
We know that supportive families have a beneficial impact on the patient’s response to treatment. They act as a buffer for the patient’s anxiety and serve as valuable resources for patient care. However, if the family anxiety is high, they may be unable to support the patient and may transfer their anxiety to him or her.
What do family members need during this difficult time?
- Assurance and hope. Meeting this need promotes confidence, security, and freedom from doubt.
- To remain near the patient. Meeting this need helps a family remain emotionally close and give support to the patient.
- To receive information and support. Meeting this need lays the foundation for family decision making, and for coaching and supporting the patient. Anxiety is reduced when a sense of control is promoted.
- To be comfortable. When comfortable, energy is conserved and anxiety is reduced.
Financial Stress and Critical Illness
Staying close and giving support to the patient may be difficult for the family if money is an issue. 55% of employees responding to MetLife’s Critical Illness Awareness Study expressed concern about the financial impact of a critical illness on their families. Only 16% of the respondents were confident they could pay for a medical emergency. Employees aren’t saving enough money to pay for such expenses. The study noted that about 4 in 10 full-time employees surveyed indicated that they live pay cheque to pay cheque. Those surveyed also reported that they had about $5,000 in savings available to pay for a major illness and 28% put that amount at less than $500.
In the US, more than 60% of all bankruptcies are directly tied to medical conditions such as critical illnesses, and most of these individuals were already covered by traditional health insurance. Critical Illness Insurance can help ease the stress of being away from work and not having their usual income. It can help the family to remain close and available to help the person recover. This insurance allows the person to focus entirely on fighting the illness and not worrying about bills or other financial stressors.
How Does It Work
Critical Illnesses Insurance pays out after 30 days from being diagnosed. It can be in the form of a lump sum, tax free cheque for the person to use as they see fit. It can be used to cover the expenses while they are off work, meet mortgage payments/bills, or to go to a specific medical centre or specialist that may not be covered under their health benefits.
What To Look For When Purchasing Critical Illness Insurance
Carefully look over the small print. Check:
- The illnesses and conditions covered
- The circumstances under which the insurance company will pay out on one of the specified illness
- The survival period (minimum number of days the policyholder is required to survive as of when the illness was first diagnosed)
- The rules under which the insurance company will accept a diagnosis is valid and by whom the diagnosis should be made
- Until what age the policy runs
- The impact of pre-existing conditions
A combination Life and Critical Illness Insurance Plan can also be purchased to help reduce the financial stress of experiencing a critical illness. For example, if a $100,000 Life & CI combo plan was purchased, the purchaser could select $50,000 as Critical Illness advance. If they suffered a critical illness and make a claim, they would get $50,000 without any survival period. They would have $50,000 remaining as death benefits that would go to their beneficiary when they died. If they did not make a Critical Illness claim their beneficiary would get the full $100,000.
As an employer, it is easy to look only at the causes of major illnesses when putting together our wellness plan. As we develop our return to work policies, it may also be prudent to look at how we can help reduce the stress for the patient and their family while they are dealing with a critical illness. Providing information on critical illness insurance as well as an opportunity to purchase it as part of a benefits program may assist the person in recovery and returning to work should they ever experience a critical illness.
- Do you provide information on Critical Illness Insurance to your employees?
- Do your employees have an opportunity to purchase Critical Illness Insurance through your provider?
If you have some strategies to share – comment on this posting!