Getting diagnosed with terminal cancer is hard — on yourself, your family, and your friends. It also can be hard on your wallet. The rising cost of medical bills means that you may have financial worries on top of your diagnosis. Here are some tips to help you and your family cover the cost. What Are the Costs Associated with a Terminal Cancer Diagnosis? As with many other medical situations, a cancer diagnosis means there will be many different bills coming from many different directions. You may already have had to pay for lab tests, imaging tests, hospital stays, and provider visits. Depending on the nature of your diagnosis, there are several options. Even if your cancer is terminal, you may benefit from life-extending radiation or chemotherapy. You may even wish to volunteer for experimental clinical trials to help contribute to the body of research. While these approaches probably will not cure your cancer, they may give you a little more time at a higher quality of life. It can be difficult to identify the total cost of treatment. Don’t be afraid to discuss the total cost of treatment with your doctor or oncologist. For patients with a terminal diagnosis, it may be useful to regularly visit a psychologist or therapist. Many terminal patients become severely depressed and anxious following the news, so a mental health professional may be able to help the patients accept their condition and come to terms with it. For a less cost-prohibitive option, many hospitals offer counseling for terminal patients or have organized support groups. Finally, the end-of-life planning process has its own associated costs. Through all of these, many organizations — from the federal level down to non-profits — offer services that may help with either the cost or the mental drain of your diagnosis. End-of-Life Planning and Coverage It’s best to prepare in advance to help ease your mind. Will you need hospice care, or would you prefer a nurse to stay with you at home? While the cost may seem prohibitive, there are options. If you have Medicare Part A coverage, you may be able to qualify for the Medicare hospice benefit, which is designed to provide the terminally ill with a peaceful quality of life without a massive monetary burden. It covers the cost of nursing care, medical equipment and supplies, therapies, and daily duties, but doesn’t cover curative treatments, the cost of room and board, or non-hospice caregivers or medical professionals. Also, many private insurance plans offer hospice coverage. Keep in mind that individual plans may have different sets of qualifications. Certain hospices also provide charity care in the event that the patient and their family are unable to pay the cost. Medicare law states that a terminally ill patient may not be denied hospice care because of an inability to pay. It is also important for you to arrange for the distribution of your assets with a living will. During this time, it’s also important to look into burial insurance, which can help your loved ones cover the cost of your funeral. This type of coverage can help pay for such things as the memorial service, urn, headstone, and other costs associated with your funeral. Some policies will also cover medical bills. Having ‘the Talk’ with Your Loved Ones Finally, one of the toughest parts about a terminal diagnosis is having “the talk” with your loved ones. The timing can be difficult; try to pick a time and place where you can talk without being interrupted. Make sure that the key decision makers in your family are present. Try to get into the conversation gently, though keep in mind your family may do their best to avoid the conversation. In addition to telling them the news, you should also make time to tell them about the plan for your estate. While you may not want to overshare, make sure they know who will act as executor, as well as your wishes for your funeral (burial vs. cremation, etc.). It is also important to provide someone with the power of attorney to speak for you in case you are unable to. Thanks to many different organizations, it is possible to cover the cost of hospice care, treatment, and insurance. By informing your family early on, you will have provided them enough time to understand the situation and plan for it, both emotionally and monetarily.
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