"I'm not working for the money. I'm working for the benefits. If we don't have benefits, we'd lose everything." - Debbie
The financial challenges that people with cancer and their families face are very real. During an illness, you may find it hard to find the time or energy to review your options. Yet it's important to keep your family financially healthy.
For hospital bills, you or your loved one may want to talk with a hospital financial counselor. You may be able to work out a monthly payment plan or even get a reduced rate. You may also want to stay in touch with the insurance company to make sure costs are covered.
For information about resources that are available, see the Resources section. You can also get the NCI fact sheet, "Financial Assistance for Cancer Care," at www.cancer.gov, search terms "financial assistance." Or call toll-free 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) to ask for it.
Coping with Work Issues
One of the greatest sources of strain is trying to balance work demands with providing care and support to a loved one. Some caregivers feel relieved to go back to work. However, for others it can be hard because you may not feel as if you're back to normal. You may feel exhausted and find it hard to focus on work after the intense caregiving experience. Or you may not want to start back up full-time if you're still caring for the person with cancer. People at work may expect you to be back to normal now that treatment is over. How caregiving can affect your work life includes:
- Mood swings that leave coworkers confused or nervous about working with you
- Trouble focusing or getting your work done
- Being late or calling in sick because of stress
It's a good idea to find out your company's rules and policies. See if there are any support programs for employees. Many companies have employee assistance programs with work-life counselors for you to talk with. Some companies have eldercare policies or other employee benefit programs that can help support you. Your employer may let you use paid sick leave to take care of your loved one, or they may let you take unpaid leave.
If your employer doesn't have any policies in place, you could try to arrange something informally. Examples include flex-time, shift-exchanging, adjusting your schedule, or telecommuting. Also, the Family and Medical Leave Act may apply to your situation. Visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/index.htm for more information.
For sources of support, see the Resources section.
Preparing Advance Directives
Now that your loved one has gone through treatment, he may see the value of having an advance directive if he didn't before. Advance directives are legal documents that let a person decide important issues ahead of time, including how much treatment to receive and who should make decisions if he or she can't. Having an advance directive helps ensure that your loved one gets the treatment he wants. Understanding his wishes will also make it easier for you if a time comes when you need to make treatment decisions.
Legal Papers At-A-Glance
Advance directives include:
- A living will lets people know what kind of medical care patients want if they are unable to speak for themselves.
- A durable power of attorney for health care names a person to make medical decisions for a patient if he or she can't make them. This person, chosen by the patient, is called a health care proxy.
Other legal papers that are not part of the advance directives include:
- A will tells how a person wants to divide money and property among his or her heirs. (Heirs are usually the surviving family members. Other people may also be named as heirs in a will.)
- Power of attorney appoints a person to make financial decisions for the patient when he can't make them.
Note: A lawyer does not always need to be present when you fill out these papers. However, a notary public may be needed. Each state has its own laws about advance directives. Check with your lawyer or social worker about the laws in your state. (For more, see the Resources section.)