On admission to the hospital, home health, or hospice, we typically ask our patients if they have a durable power of attorney and/or a living will. When tragedy strikes, these documents permit family, friends, and the healthcare team to act on behalf of the patient. When our friends or family members transcend this realm to the next, these documents give would-be decision makers reprieve from otherwise difficult decisions.
As clinicians, we preach the virtue of preparedness; yet, I sometimes wonder why we ignore the financial wreckage that death – unexpected or otherwise – rains down on the bereaved. The loss of a friend or family member is bad enough, but it’s even worse when you’re dependent on them for food, shelter, and income.
When we discuss the need for our patients to be prepared, we fail to discuss life insurance.
When my mother died unexpectedly at 48, my family was torn apart. While mourning, I made the funeral arraignments. As a dutiful son, I wrote a check for $10,000 to cover her burial expenses, a large sum for a college kid. I don’t regret writing that check or resent my mom for having to do it, but I wish she would have had life insurance.
A month later, my grandfather died. He, too, didn’t have life insurance. I couldn’t absorb the cost of the loss this time and neither could my grandmother. Unlike the situation with my mother, my grandmother had a mortgage payment, credit card debt, and an old house in disrepair. She didn’t have my grandfather’s help anymore and was just left to fend for herself with little, if any, financial assistance.
As nurses, we always want the highest quality of life for our patients, but for the families of those patients whom perish, the quality of life for them sometimes teeters on the edge of financial calamity. As nurses, we should consider providing our patients education about life insurance. We’re not insurance salesmen, but we are advocates, teachers, and know what happens when death strikes.