Every year, close to 170,000 Canadians receive a cancer diagnosis. Another 75,000 suffer a heart attack. An estimated 50,000 have a stroke. And thousands more face diagnoses of Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, blindness, paralysis or other illnesses.

These conditions are life-changing, and most times, happen without warning. When they do, people can find themselves burdened not only by health worries, but with financial concerns.

Jay is one of those people. His crisis started with a traffic accident. The last thing he remembers is driving toward a stop light with two cars ahead of him; then, he woke up in an ambulance. He had suffered a seizure. That day marked the beginning of a health-care odyssey that continues to unfold.

The diagnosis was a benign brain tumour. There was surgery. More seizures. Debilitating headaches. A professional driver, the 45-year-old can’t get behind a wheel until he has been seizure-free for one year.  With a 17-year-old son and a wife at home, Jay can’t afford to be out of work.

“I was worried about my future,” he says. “What savings do I have? How am I going to make my payments?”

Jay is fortunate. His boss will keep him on the payroll and has offered him an office job until he’s given the all-clear to resume driving. He’s back at work, though at lower pay.

At times like this, critical illness insurance can help, says Carl Jorgensen, product manager for critical illness coverage for Equitable Life of Canada.

Advances in diagnosis and treatment are helping people recover from conditions that used to be life-threatening, says Jorgensen. That’s why critical illness coverage is growing as part of financial planning, alongside life or disability insurance.

“Critical illness insurance is an excellent way to help ease the worry about the financial impacts and allow people to focus on getting back on their feet,” Jorgensen says. “It really helps people get back to living their lives and the policyholder chooses how to spend the money.”

Critical illness products offer a lump sum payment and cover a range of conditions, including heart attack, stroke, life-threatening cancer or benign brain tumour. Most clients choose plans that provide a payment in the $100,000 range when covered conditions are met.

“From maintaining a mortgage to paying off debt, there are a lot of ways that critical illness insurance can ease the worry in the event of a critical illness,” Jorgensen says. “They can use it to access costly treatments. Maybe they need to travel to a special clinic. They could pay for in-home care or make renovations to their home. They could hire somebody to keep their business viable while they recover. Or perhaps a spouse needs to take some time off work to help care for the individual who’s sick.”

Equitable Life has an online tool that can help determine the amount of critical insurance that may be required. It’s based on an individual’s situation, including assets, debts and other financial obligations that would need to be covered.

Talk to your advisor if you’d like to learn more about critical illness insurance.