Disability Benefits are always an option when you are too sick to work for a long period of time. When you’re sick and can’t work the first thing that comes to your mind is about money. Bills pile up along with frustrations and stress.
There are some resources available if you find yourself in a similar situation. Some of these we needed. There is no shame in accepting help or asking for it when you have done everything you can, and it’s not enough. Accept that you will have to ask for help in order to care for family members and yourself. Here are some options:
Do you need your disability sooner than the five months people are required to wait before payments start?
Before you go to an attorney, which will cost you more money, try looking on the Social Security Website. For certain conditions, there is a law that promises to start your disability sooner because of the obvious nature or severity of your health condition. It is called Compassionate Allowances Conditions or CAL. Conditions like sudden blindness, cancers, etc. are obvious disabilities and people with any of these conditions are promised the disability help sooner. Here is a List of Conditions that qualify. When John was sick, the law promised his benefits within one month. The laws are always changing but click on the previous links for current information. We did not receive our benefits in the four weeks, so I went back to the website to try to find out what to do. It showed the man who suggested and worked for the compassionate allowance law to be passed. His email was listed somewhere in the article; I emailed him and told him that we obviously qualified (John’s diagnosis was on the list) for the CAL and that we hadn’t received our benefits yet. I stated that I appreciated the law but what good was it if it didn’t give what was promised. We had our benefits in the next week. I truly believe he pulled strings, pushed our application through, or did something to get us that check. Don’t be afraid to be assertive. Especially when you are sick and you’ve worked and paid taxes for these benefits. It is ok to speak up!
Do you need someone to drive you to the doctor or hospital for your treatment, chemo, or radiation?
The cancer society has a program where you can call them, and they will hook you up with a volunteer who is available to drive you to your treatment appointments. Before John started his Chemo and Radiation treatments he called a few friends and family members who could spare a couple of hours once a week to drive him. During his treatments, he would be on heavy pain medicine and wouldn’t be able to drive. I couldn’t take off work since I was bringing in the only income. His treatments were five days a week and took a couple of hours til he was driven there and treated and brought home. John called some family members and asked if they would help and before he knew it he had five people who could take him to one appointment a week, so he had his rides set up before he started. If you don’t have friends or family living nearby, call The Cancer Society. It’s wonderful to know that there are people who have time on their hands and are waiting to help you if you need it.
What can you do for cash until your disability starts?
If you don’t qualify for the early disability benefits and you are out of cash it’s scary and overwhelming, especially if you are ill. Your most important job at this point is to communicate with your mortgage company or landlord, electric, oil or propane (or whatever heating source you have). Obviously, when you finally do get your first disability check you will not be able to catch up on your bills, but you could set up reasonable payment plans so you can keep living where you are, keep warm, and eat!
If you need treatments that are going to leave you too sick to do anything try to wait a week or two until you start. Then get yourself set up ahead of time. You will need to spend time on the phone calmly explaining to everyone exactly what your situation is. Ask the direct question: Is there a way I can set up payments to start when my benefits do because I have no money to pay for them now. Most of the time if you have been paying everything on time normally and you can show them proof of your illness and upcoming needed treatment a debtor will work with you. The reality is that even though they will work with you, the negotiated amounts might not be enough for you to continue living where you are. At this point, you will probably know how much money you will need to keep your home and your credit score from dropping. If you are blessed to have a friend or relative who can loan money, now is the time to borrow and pay ahead on your bills, especially if you will be too sick to do it yourself during treatment. Your food may have to come from a food bank until your benefits kick in. More info on that next. Every hospital has a social worker who is familiar with the area (county) they are in or can recommend a social worker for your area. They will put a wealth of info at your fingertips.
What can you do for groceries after your last paycheck is spent?
John and I were able to get money from family to help us until our benefits started. We also waited to pay bills that we could pay back later to have money for groceries. If none of these options are possible for you, then you can call your local welfare office and ask where the closest food bank is. I wasn’t familiar with that information until a social worker at the hospital called and suggested it. She encouraged me that no matter how much money I made, the food bank was available for us in our situation if we needed it. Plan ahead by going to one and asking questions like: what are your hours? How often can I shop? What is the best day to come in? Again, if you worked and paid taxes before you were sick, you earned this benefit. Do not feel bad using it. You and your family need to eat healthy now especially if you are sick.
How are you going to pay medical bills your insurance won’t pay?
Health insurance is a sore subject for me. The whole healthcare system has become so complicated for everyone. Doctor’s are doing amazing things to help people get better but since the research scientists are working to find better treatment options it is expensive, therefore making our health care expensive and unaffordable for many people. My best advice is not to worry, there are lots of ways to get the bills paid. Make a few phone calls and then concentrate on getting better. First, talk to the hospital social worker. Ask anyone that works at the hospital for the phone number. Sometimes there are programs available to help pay for the special treatment your insurance won’t pay for, and you can’t afford. Hospitals and doctor’s offices will allow monthly payments toward your bill and don’t charge interest. Usually, one phone call to the billing office is all you need to do. If you are having trouble, ask the social worker to help. If the cost to you is impossibly high, some hospitals might negotiate a different amount rather than not get paid at all. Don’t let things go until your credit is ruined to talk about the amount you owe. I can’t stress this enough to people who haven’t experienced health issues: Take control of every part of your healthcare by asking questions, reminding doctors and nurses of your problems, especially when it relates to something they want to schedule or do. Speak Up. Research everything you can and ask your specialist if something you see is relevant for your condition. The medical world is not what it used to be. You have the last say for what happens to your body so don’t be afraid to ask questions and get second opinions if in doubt of something. For more suggestions on this subject click here
You’re on my last paycheck and you don’t want to ask for help.
There are two things that will keep you from getting help. Stubbornness and Pride. These aren’t pretty words but it’s the truth that you will need to face along with accepting your diagnosis. If you want to live and not be homeless you will have to give up these two mindsets before anything else. You will become a better person for it, which has many rewards that are worth it, even though you may not see them immediately. The best gift I ever received was the help people gave us while John was sick. I realized they were worth more than gold when I was writing thank you notes and couldn’t stop crying. I knew that somehow I would pass it on and the beauty of that helps give you hope and intention to fight through the hard times. You will appreciate life in a better way that you will only fully know after you’ve experienced what is coming next in your life.
How can you possibly remember to take your different medications at all the varying times during the day?
I remember a massive amount of pills and liquid medicines, patches and creams that suddenly appeared on my kitchen counter one day. I was in a fog half the time when John was getting treatment, just enduring the pain of watching him in pain. I realized he could accidentally take too much medicine or forget powerful medicine because of how potent they were. So I made a graph that had the times of day and what to take when. I could hardly understand it, not to mention someone trying to read it who was on strong fentanyl patches. I came home from work one day, and John’s sister had a weeks worth of pills organized in a plastic container with separate compartments for each day. I strongly recommend using one. There is usually a variety to choose from at the pharmacy counter. Small, large, divided in two for each day, etc. Phone calls home to remind your loved one when it’s time to take their meds will also help. Thankfully every day until John got home from his treatments it was only a few hours til I came home from work, so he wasn’t alone too long.
Everything is overwhelming and you feel like giving up and doing nothing.
I totally understand if this is running through your mind. This time in your life could involve complexities and emotions you never experienced before and the temptation to give up might be knocking at your door. If this thought comes to you while trying to work all the details out of your finances, take a break. Rest your mind with a nap, earlier bedtime, or by occupying it by doing something else. I watched a comedy series on Netflix sometimes just to laugh and loosen up. If you can’t bring yourself to sleep or relax, or the feeling of giving up becomes suicidal see your doctor immediately. Sometimes extreme stress can change the way certain natural chemicals in our brains work, and the hormones in our bodies can change too. You can feel better in a matter of a few hours or days and within a few weeks, you could be feeling more clear headed and energetic than you have in months or even years. Keep the communication open with your doctor by calling and telling him if you are not feeling better so he can put you on medicine that works best with your unique chemical balance. Remember, you will be getting medicine for whatever illness you’ve been diagnosed with. Would you consider just trying to think that illness away? You cannot think your depression or anxiety, in some forms, away. If you don’t feel better by trying more sleep, exercise, or positive thinking, don’t wait. Like any illness, it may continue to get worse if you don’t do anything.
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Where can you get someone to help around your house until you get your strength back?
Sometimes help is at your fingertips, and you don’t know it. John’s sister’s church had a ministry especially for people with cancer. A lot of the people involved in the ministry either had cancer previously or knew someone who had it. They were eager to help someone else who was experiencing the same thing. Pre-made meals, housecleaning, moving, lawn work and prayers were all a part of the ministry. Even if you aren’t a member of a church, call a few churches in your area. The larger churches will have more resources. Just ask them if they have anyone that could help you. Maybe you need assistance with mowing your yard, cooking for your kids, cleaning or whatever is needed. Don’t ask for everything but if you have a roof with rain gushing in, and you have no one that can even lay a tarp over it for you, some people will help. In places where people are available to help, word travels fast of your situation and what your needs are. When you’re feeling better, you can return the favor.
What if you lose your home and good credit
It is a sad reality that some people who are faced with long illnesses will not be able to keep the same lifestyle they had before they were sick. Only people who have a savings plan for the chances of this situation happening in their life will be able to continue their stable financial situation. I get it, for those of you who never had a savings plan. It’s almost impossible when one thing after another goes wrong and you need to open your wallet continually. Even for those who could have but didn’t have a backup savings plan, it is possible to accept what happens next and go on. Forgive yourself and put the “hard on yourself thoughts” behind you. Forget about it, but try to learn from it. I had to move from a 3000 square foot house to a 1000 sq ft house. I’m still the same person but with stronger character traits. It is not what you have that defines you. If money defines you now, you will begin a new journey where you discover more important things to be defined by. You can still be happy, even when you experience loss, happiness will return. Sometimes it takes time and some soul searching, but it will happen.
Please email me or comment below if you have any questions or suggestions.