Although we know that a cancer diagnosis brings with it a financial burden, we do not often speak about money when discussing the experiences of patients and caregivers. In honor of National Family Caregivers Month, Janet G., the mother of a mesothelioma survivor, has provided us with some tips for patients and families facing financial difficulties as a result of mesothelioma. Janet has helped us outline some of the common concerns below.
Financial struggles can take a toll on patients and caregivers alike, and the first and most important thing to do is to admit that you may need assistance. This can be the hardest part, but it is important to acknowledge the problem and express your concern to close family and friends. Discussing the need for financial assistance can lead you to resource that would otherwise go unknown, and simply sharing your worry with others may lessen the emotional toll it is taking on you.
When Janet’s daughter was diagnosed with mesothelioma, she was a young, recently married parent, and she and her husband were not prepared for the diagnosis, especially financially. As a result, they sought financial assistance from everywhere they could get it.
Janet notes that an excellent place to start seeking assistance is at your hospital. Find a social worker or patient advocate with whom you can speak about your needs and concerns. Within hours of seeking financial assistance at their hospital, Janet’s daughter and husband met with a social worker who helped them through the process of legalities, including establishing medical power of attorney, a living will, and guardianship forms for their minor child. Everything that needed to be legally filed with the county or state was done through the social worker without any fees for the service.
Additionally, hospitals often have programs to help reduce costs that are not openly advertised, but are available if you ask. These programs can be as simple as free parking, discounts for patients and families at local hotels and restaurants, or free shuttle services. Some hospitals will even have programs to reduce your overall hospital charges and insurance co-pays.
Another area to consider is personal fundraising. Some patients and caregivers do not feel comfortable taking this on, but it is something you can enlist a family member or close friend to do. There are plenty of online resources, such as gofundme.com, that make personal fundraising easy. Janet and her family also found that churches and ministerial groups often have funding resources available. After the mesothelioma diagnosis, the cost of daycare for the youngest of Janet’s daughter’s children was covered by the family’s church.
You can also reach out to local groups and businesses to help with fundraising. Janet’s family contacted the local Vietnam Veterans group, which was happy to host a fundraiser. Janet was also able to call on a close contact connected with a fishing club, and they organized a fundraising tournament. The family even reached out to local businesses, where they were granted permission to place donation canisters, and upon hearing of the family’s situation, a local church group offered to bring them meals.
Janet also suggests having an honest conversation with your bank. Often, loan and mortgage payments can be temporarily reduced. If you are senior citizens, there are likely many services available of which you are unaware. Start by asking the director of a local senior citizens center about agencies you can contact, as they should be able to provide you with information about where to go and with whom to speak. You may also want to contact a law firm that handles senior law or look into nearby universities or colleges that may provide some or all of the services you are seeking, such as protecting your assets, leaving inheritance, and so on.
The Meso Foundation also offers financial assistance to mesothelioma patients through our patient travel grant program. To learn more about this program and apply for assistance, click here.