Coping Financially During Long Term Illness
Illness is something which can occur unexpectedly and out of the blue. Sometimes though the effects of an illness can stay with you for a long time affecting many aspects of your daily life. It can be extremely frustrating not being able to do what you once could but it can be even more frustrating when the illness begins to hit your finances, especially if you have a family you are trying to provide for. Hopefully you will have some savings put away in an emergency fund but these will likely soon become exhausted if your illness really does prove to be long term. So what else can you do to cope financially during a long term illness?
Admit your problem and put pride to one side
One of the hardest things for many of those who are suffering is actually admitting that they can’t do what they once did. We all like to stay financially independent for as long as possible in the hope that we will be able to recover from our illness and get on with life as normal again. This pride can often cause your financial situation to become even more dire as the unpaid bills start to stack up and charges start being added. So the first step is to recognise and admit that you may need to make some changes or seek some short or long term financial assistance before your finances spiral out of control. So what changes can be made and what assistance can you seek? Let’s consider a few things that can be done.
Check your existing policies
If you currently have any insurance policies in place related to life or income then it can be a good idea to get out the document box and sift through the details of all policies to see if there are any unexpected benefits in that policy that may be relevant to your situation. If your illness is particularly serious for example then you may find that your life insurance policy has a critical illness element to it which will pay out on diagnosis. You may find that you still have some sort of income protection policy in place that you set up years ago but never got around to cancelling. We’re looking for the expected and the unexpected here so even if you don’t think that any of your policies contain these benefits it is still worth an hour of your time finding out on the off chance that they do.
Another thing that you should check is whether you have any insurance policies on your mortgage, loans or finance deals. If you do then there is a good chance that you may be covered for medium term illness and you may be able to make a claim to help pay these commitments in part or in full whilst you recover from your illness.
Are you eligible for benefits?
If you have found that your income has significantly decreased due to your illness then you might now be eligible for benefits such as increased tax credits or even housing benefit. Pride can again play a part here as most of us don’t like to admit that we can’t support our loved ones on our own steam anymore. The problem with pride is that it won’t change the situation you are in. These benefits can also take a long time to sort out and you often cannot backdate them without a valid reason. So if your financial situation has changed because of your illness then it’s wise to find out what you are eligible for and make any claim as soon as possible. You can always cancel a claim later on if your health improves but it’s better to plan for the worst case scenario and claim what you are entitled to early on.
Can you work from home?
If your employer offers the option of working from home while you get over your illness then perhaps this could be something you could cope with? If this option isn’t available then maybe you could use your skills to top up your income with an online business or by freelancing as and when you feel able. It’s obviously wise to check whether any work you are doing would negatively affect your sick pay or benefits but if you are able to add a few extra pounds to your weekly budget then this could really help during this tough time in your life.
Making lifestyle changes
The timing of this decision can also be tough, when to make those lifestyle changes? If you expect your illness to end quite soon then it can be tempting to delay making changes to how you live. The problem here is that life doesn’t always go as you expect it to. The wise thing to do would be to make cutbacks and start saving money right away just in case your illness lasts for a lot longer than you were expecting. These changes could include slashing your food budget, reducing cable packages; mobile phone tariffs etc., anything that can be changed without incurring a penalty. Perhaps you could even cancel some contracts.
Again it can be difficult to admit that you can’t now afford the things you once could but if this is the case then it is best to deal with the problem yourself before someone else – the debt collectors – deal with it for you. Creating a workable budget, even if it is just for a temporary time, can reduce the stress in the long run which could then help drastically with your ability to overcome your illness.
It can happen to anyone
As we’ve discussed, one of the biggest things that can prevent us from improving or protecting our financial position during illness can be our own pride. You may be reluctant to make lifestyle changes, claim benefits or seek advice. What is it they say though, ‘pride comes before a fall’? If you’re feeling down on yourself then just remember that you are not alone in what you are facing. There are many people out there dealing with long term illness or even critical illness. It truly can happen to anyone so you should not be afraid to make changes and seek advice, it could mean the difference between keeping your finances afloat during this hard time of life, or not.
Have you suffered with long term illness? How did you cope financially?