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Information about all aspects of finances affected by a serious health condition. Includes income sources such as work, investments, and private and government disability programs, and expenses such as medical bills, and how to deal with financial problems.
Information about all aspects of health care from choosing a doctor and treatment, staying safe in a hospital, to end of life care. Includes how to obtain, choose and maximize health insurance policies.
Answers to your practical questions such as how to travel safely despite your health condition, how to avoid getting infected by a pet, and what to say or not say to an insurance company.

Family and Friends

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A diagnosis truly is a family affair. On the one hand, a diagnosis affects family and friends as well as the patient emotionally and often financially. On the other hand, family and friends can be supportive in a variety of ways. A bit of thought can help manage the relationships in a way that is most beneficial for you.

It helps to think of family and friends as part of your team to help you get through your illness and the journey that starts post diagnosis. Even children are part of your team. Ask for their help and cooperation. 

Accept people giving things and time to you.

  • Do not be shy about asking for the help you need.
    • No need is too big or too small to ask about. People who care about you want to help.
    • Caregivers cannot guess your needs. You have to express them clearly. You may have to repeat your needs when they are ongoing.
    • It can help to appoint a person to coordinate people so all the burden does not fall on one person.
    • Communicate when something or someone is well meaning but not helpful to you.
    • As your needs change, your role in the family changes. Understand that it takes time for people to adjust to the change. When you feel better, consider whether to change the roles again. Family and friends will expect a return to the old ways. If that is not what you want, let them know what you do want. Be open to a discussion.
  • Caregivers should be of your choosing. Keep in mind that they are also very affected by your illness. Watch for signs of burn out.
    • Just because a person offers to be a caregiver, doesn't mean you have to let them. Who acts as caregiver is up to you.
    • Help caregivers remember that if they don't take care of themselves, they won't be able to take care of you. Even the strongest caregiver needs time off. (This is known as a "respite.") Support groups are available for caregivers.
    • If you want to qualify for Medicaid, and have more assets than allowable, you can enter into an agreement with a caregiver which reduces the amount of your assets for Medicaid purposes.
    • With a Caregiver Agreement, you may be able to pay for a caregiver's help and deduct the expense as a medical expense. It may even be reimbusable by insurance.
  • Don't take an appearance of not caring personally.
    • There are times when friends ask how you are, but don't seem to want to know the answer, if they change the subject or say, "But you're fine now, aren't  you?" rather than listen to you. When that happens, keep in mind that it is their fear talking. It doesn't excuse such behavior, but it makes it easier not to take it personally.
    • Likewise, your awareness that your disease can recur, or the fact you had one disease makes it more likely that you may have another one in the future, is likely to make you more vigilant about noticing symptoms. Friends and family may deny this reality, and pooh, pooh your concerns. This doesn't mean they don't care.
  • If you need money, family and friends can help.
    • They can help you figure out how to get you through a financial crunch. (For information about how to get through whta we refer to as a financial crunch, click here.)
    • If you ask family and friends for money, be up-front about whether you are asking for a donation or a loan that will be repaid.
    • Family and friends can help you put together a fund raiser.
  • If  you are married, don't think your illness will inevitably lead to divorce. Statistics indicate divorce is not higher among couples where one person has a serious health condition.

Discussions to have with family and friends

  • Think through who you want to tell about your health condition, how, and when.
  • Prepare to answer questions.
  • Tell your children and answer their questions. Children observe and have imaginations that can run wild. They will imagine things about what you don't tell them. They can also blame themselves for whatever is happening.
    • Speak with each child in a manner particular to the child and appropriate to their level of development. There are organizations and materials that can ehlp you have these discussions.
    • If you have young children, keep watch for their emotional needs and the effect your situation may have on their lives (such as school work).
    • If you could become unable to care for your children, or die, think about making arrangements so you have control over what happens.
  • Share your emotions.
    • Holding back your emotions hurts both people in a relationship.
    • Rather than share all emotions the moment they surface, consider the time and place. Then share at what seems like the appropriate time..
    • Allow family and friends to share their emotions. This is difficult for them as well.
    • Realize that emotional stress for a caregiver is often based on the fact that they want to cure you, but they can't. What they can do is care. They need to be reminded how essential and important caring is to you.
    • Let family and friends know that there are support groups just for caregivers. To learn more about support groups, click here. 
    • For information about emotions that are likely to appear,  click here. For information about coping with them, click here.
  • Discuss your wishes in the event you become unable to speak for yourself and medical decisions need to be made, and in the event you die. While this is mentioned in the context of a serious illness, these steps should be taken by every prudent person. No one ever knows when we die.
    • The documents in which those wishes are expressed (Living Wills and other Advance Directives ) may not be enforced if family members are not on board.
    • Make sure your doctor has a copy of your Advance Directives, is clear about what you want, and knows who will make decisions if you can't.
  • Consider discussing what will happen to your assets if you die (estate plans) with family members to avoid fights and ill-will later on. If you want to be prudent and save money and family stress later, consider deciding what you want with respect to a funeral and burial. We are not implying that you will die from your illness. In fact, there is at least one person that survives every illness - and medical science is helping people live longer and longer. However, death is part of the human condition.

If you need money, family and friends can help figure out answers, as well as be potential sources of money. (We provide advice about asking for a donation or loan. Click here.)

If relationships become difficult, or harmful to you, seek professional help. Speak with your doctor and/or a mental health therapist

NOTE: If your spouse or partner has health insurance, if you haven't already, check to see if you can be covered under his or her plan.

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