As of 2012, about half of all adults in the United States, 117 million people, were reported to live with one or more chronic health conditions. But for those of us who struggle with chronic illness and disease on a day-to-day basis, our conditions are much more than just a staggering statistic. From diabetes, to heart disease, arthritis, Lupus, and Lyme, the list of chronic illnesses seems to goes on and on. But, unfortunately, the psychiatric, medical, and financial resources designed to help feel few and far between.
Living With Chronic Illness
Finding a partner, whether it's that special someone in your life for emotional support or a trusted financial partner to help manage your ongoing medical costs, it's important to lean on the resources that will help guide you to health through your very personal journey.
Work Towards Bettering Your Health & Yourself Every Day
No matter where your life and health take you – through the ups and downs, the good and the bad – remember to focus on your happiness and betterment at every opportunity. For some of us, our chronic illnesses might prevent us from holding down a steady job, or living life with the same habits and routines we've grown accustomed to. But that doesn't mean you have to give up altogether. Living with chronic illness means embracing change and living life responsibly, healthfully, and thoughtfully.
Be Patient and Flexible
Living with chronic illness can be a long and taxing road. When times get tough, or when you wake up feeling down, remember to be patient and forgiving with yourself and understanding of your body. Always weigh your options, and make thoughtful decisions that minimize stress and maximize happiness. If that means staying home from a social gathering or vacation, that's okay. If that means adjusting your current lifestyle to accommodate your limitations, that's okay too. Trust the process, and explore your options, knowing that there's a world of support and resources to guide you through.
Focus on Your Health
While medical advances and technology can help mitigate challenges or work towards a cure, focusing on your health from the inside-out can aid your healing process, cut long-term costs, and improve your overall wellbeing. Depending on your condition, consider visiting a physical therapist to learn different stretches, exercises, and physical strategies to reduce pain and regain strength in affected areas. Be sure to do these correctly and consistently. Also, don't forget the little things that can have profound long-term benefits, like adjusting your diet, staying active (within reason, given your condition and doctor's advice), and getting enough rest every night. Practice meditation or other stress-coping methods, as stress can exacerbate a host of medical issues, and ultimately lower your medical bills and reduce the need for more frequent doctor's visits.
Educate Yourself About Your Financial Options
While your personal and psychological health is the cornerstone to living with chronic illness, your medical expenses are a stressful and unfortunate reality. The seemingly relentless and compounding medical expenses can last years, and with rising health insurance costs, even essential treatments can throw off your financial stability.
When you're living with a chronic disease or disability, the medical bills, pharmaceutical costs, and doctor's office invoices continue to pile up, often beyond what we and our family are able to manage long-term. And for some of us, it's hard to hold down a well-paying job when we're inhibited by our health. It's important to educate yourself thoroughly and consider your financial options. Know that millions of Americans are plagued by similar debt – but trust that where there's help, there's hope.
This may seem simple, but it's an essential first step to balancing personal medical expenses. As you work to live with your chronic illness, creating, managing, and sticking to a realistic budget is critical to your physical and financial health. Monitor your spending habits and look to cut out extraneous costs wherever you can, reconsidering that $4 cup of coffee every morning, for example. Look to shop during sales, and brainstorm with family members, roommates, or loved ones to figure out where you can lower unnecessary expenses.
Debt Consolidation Loan
If you've accrued debt from multiple credit lines and lenders, consider a debt consolidation loan. These loans allow you to pay off several loans in one lump sum, and often offer a lower interest rate, lower monthly payments, or both. The credit.com debt consolidation tool gives the option to manage accrued medical expenses and more with a long-term, manageable payment plan that fit monthly and annual budgets.
Debt Settlement & Negotiation
If your past-due expenses have already been sent to a collections agency, and you're unable to apply for a feasible consolidation loan, work with the collections agency or debt settlement company to see where you can get exemptions or more flexible terms. With such high medical costs, your care provider or financial intermediaries are usually more empathetic than you may think. Always thoroughly review your medical bills to check for upcharges or mistakes, keep an open line of communication to ask questions and get cost clarifications, and be persistent to work out a practical payment plan. If you have legal help available or can find a free consultation service, it's definitely worthwhile to work through negotiations with professional guidance.
When considering your financial options, drop the stigma around "bankruptcy". A 2009 Harvard study found that over 60% of all declared bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to medical expenses. Depending on your financial situation and income, filing for bankruptcy may be your best option, but be sure to do your research first. Declaring bankruptcy is a complicated process, but you can determine if your credit score and finances fall into the range for bankruptcy with the credit.com free credit score tool.
At every step of the way, credit.com is here to help manage your medical debt and guide you through the process of making informed financial decisions based on your unique situation.