Being diagnosed with a terminal illness is one of the scariest things any of us could ever face. Between the sadness, loss, and worries that come with facing such a diagnosis to the practical issues surrounding treatments, bills, and options, there’s a lot to think about. The first thing to do is take a deep breath, identify your support systems, and formulate a step by step plan on how you will manage not only your illness but the living that’s still left ahead. If you or a loved one are facing a terminal diagnosis, here are some things to consider that might make this trying time a little easier.
The costs of a terminal diagnosis can be overwhelming. You will want to save money where you can and prescription coupons and discount cards can help you to do this. To learn more about these, ask your hospital social worker or pharmacist for more information. Both will have plenty of resources for ways you can save the out of pocket cost on your prescriptions and medications. Your pharmacy may even have cards for these coupons or programs on the counters so keep an eye open when you or your family members pick your medicine up. It’s always worth a call to check your eligibility.
Another way to find ways to save money is to call or contact any foundation that works to help people who suffer from your illness. If you are a breast cancer warrior, for example, there are many foundations and charities that will either donate money to your treatment and travel expenses or know of ways you can save your pennies as you navigate the road ahead. Don’t be afraid to reach out to these charities— that’s why these financial resources are there, and they’re often founded by others who have been in your family’s shoes. They are there to help you.
While you will need people to help you, you will feel better helping yourself, too. This means taking time out for self-care. A terminal diagnosis doesn’t have to define you. You are the same person as you were before your illness. If spending nights online looking at
women’s dress jackets was your thing before you got sick, keep doing it. If wearing a well-tailored blazer or skirt makes you feel like yourself, get dressed up. If you had a hobby or interest that you loved before you became a cancer patient, don’t give it up.
Baths, alone time, spending time with family and friends will all be important recharges as you continue on your journey. Yes, there will be days spent navigating social security benefits or filling out paperwork asking for personal information, but there will be downtime ahead too. Take that time for yourself doing the things that made you feel most alive before you got sick. Taking care of your mental health and being compassionate with yourself will be critical in how you and your family manage this.
Finances and Disability Rights
If your diagnosis means you are unable to work, you have the right to disability benefits. Benefits can include Medicare or Medicaid and SSI or SSDI depending on your career history. Especially when finances are a concern, it is a good idea to apply for disability benefits quickly. While people with serious illnesses move to the front of the line, it can still take a long time to process the paperwork and you will want to get a jump start on this.
If you aren’t sure how to apply, ask your health care provider to speak to your case manager or palliative care coordinator, depending on where you are in your diagnosis and treatments. You can also get information on this in the hospital finance department or, at the very least, they can point you in the direction of an SSDI attorney who will handle your claim and paperwork for you and work with the social security administration to get you the benefits you are entitled to.
When you meet with a social security advocate or even do research on your own, be sure to look into additional entitlement benefits your family may be eligible for after your passing. Survivors can often qualify for benefits too.
Life Insurance and Funeral Expense Options
Many people have never heard of viatical settlements, but they can provide some great financial resources to those with a terminal diagnosis. The great news is that viaticals settlements from American Life Fund and others will pay you a lump sum of money to buy out your life insurance policy after a terminal diagnosis. The payout from this can be used toward the end of life expenses like funeral pre-planning and more. Funds from viatical settlements, such as those offered by the American Life Fund, are not taxable and can be used in any way you please. It’s a great source of financial help.
People worried about leaving their family and loved ones with piles of bills can be rest assured if they choose to explore the option of a viatical settlement. But before you sign on the dotted line, be sure to do your research. You want to be sure a viatical settlement transaction feels comfortable to you so don’t be afraid to ask the broker questions and inquire for additional information from third parties as needed.
A terminal diagnosis is hard. There is no other way to say it. And there might be times when it seems unmanageable for one person or family system alone. To cope with this, consider seeing a therapist. There are therapists who specialize in grief counselling. Your hospital may even offer free counseling or you could see a trusted preacher or pastor who knows you well. Either way, don’t be afraid to reach out to professionals who can help you to navigate the emotional and physically trying road ahead. You are only as alone in this as you let yourself be. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness but one of the best things you can do for yourself.
In the end, no one knows better than you that life is short and the time left is valuable. While there are many things to think about while grappling with a terminal diagnosis, try to make time for friends and family. That same support system that will help you formulate a plan will also want to spend time with you. Now is the time to make memories and hit that bucket list to the best of your ability. Consider a trip, a celebration of life for the living, scrapbooking, journaling, taking pictures, and creating those memories now. Your family and friends will thank you for it.