24 THE QUEENS COURIER • JANUARY 30, 2020 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Useful tips to help caregivers
navigate the cost of care
When a patient receives bad
medical news, it can be a paralyzing
moment. It's easy to see
how any serious diagnosis can
shatter someone's life into a million
pieces, but we oft en overlook
what's happening to the
caregiver who's devoting their
time and energy to provide care.
On top of the physical and emotional
demands, the fi nancial
cost of caregiving is unavoidable.
What makes someone a caregiver?
American caregivers support
patients in a variety of ways.
Th ey can be young or old, live
close by or miles away and provide
care full time or part time.
Many of us are caregivers - for
our children, parents, siblings or
even close friends. Maybe you
are a caregiver who provides
"hands-on" care now, but may be
called upon to provide fi nancial
assistance in the future. It's crucial
for caregivers to make wise
fi nancial decisions about caregiving
- for their loved ones and
just as importantly, for themselves.
At 34 years old, Danielle
Fontanesi had to give up her
job as a full-time attorney so she
could care for her husband, Matt.
Matt was fi ghting acute myeloid
leukemia and needed aroundthe
clock care while recovering
from a stem cell transplant.
Fontanesi wasn't able to go back
to work for more than a year,
and found it challenging to fi nd
a new job given her employment
gap, which cost her more
than $175,000 in lost income.
Th e cost of relocating next to a
major cancer center where Matt
was treated was also substantial.
"Not only did I lose income, I
lost a year of career progression,"
says Fontanesi. "We still had to
pay our rent, car payments and
hospital expenses, while not having
income during this period."
According to Gwen Nichols,
MD, Chief Medical Offi cer of
Th e Leukemia & Lymphoma
Society(R) (LLS), Fontanesi is
far from alone in her fi nancial
"Again and again, we fi nd that
caregivers make huge fi nancial
sacrifi ces to care for their
loved one," Nichols says. "When
you tally up the losses, it's quite
astounding: loss of wages, loss of
health insurance, loss of retirement
savings and the list goes
on. Th ese hold serious fi nancial
consequences for caregivers."
Over time, the economic burdens
of long-term medical care
can create added distress for
patients and caregivers that is
oft en called "fi nancial toxicity."
Financial toxicity occurs when
growing out-of-pocket healthcare
costs lead to serious fi nancial
costs can include anything from
hospital stays or outpatient services
to medical equipment and
To help caregivers navigate the
cost of cancer care for themselves
and their loved ones, Nichols
off ers these important tips:
Encourage your loved one to
seek a second opinion: When
appropriate, caregivers should
help their loved one seek a second
opinion. A second opinion
can help ensure an accurate
diagnosis, which can then guide
your loved one's treatment plan.
An accurate diagnosis enables
resources to be directed in a way
that off ers your loved one the
greatest potential benefi ts, both
in terms of a better health outcome
as well as fi nancial impact.
When weighing multiple treatment
options or in circumstances
of uncertainty, it's also helpful
to gain a second opinion to help
inform the best course of care
and avoid the detrimental health
eff ects and costliness of incorrect
or unnecessary treatments.
Help start a dialogue: It's crucial
to have an open conversation
with healthcare providers about
fi nancial pressures. You and your
loved one should partner with
their medical provider to understand
the cost of certain services
and treatments. Th is information
can help empower you and
your loved one to make the right
decision for you and your family.
For example, your loved one
may be able to choose among
treatments or select providers or
treatment centers that off er the
same or even greater potential
benefi t, but at a lower cost.
Be an advocate for change:
Your voice as a caregiver is valuable,
and can help shape discussions
about the cost of care.
Whether you act as an individual
or part of an organized eff ort by
a patient advocacy organization,
you can make an impact by sharing
your story about the fi nancial
hardships you've experienced.
Th ese fi rsthand accounts
are vital for spurring action. To
learn more about LLS Advocacy
and how you can raise awareness
about the cost of cancer
care, visit www.lls.org/be-an-advocate.
Take advantage of available
resources: Caregivers are
oft en hesitant to seek help and
are oft en unaware of the many
resources available to them at
their fi ngertips. LLS has free
resources and support services
such as online chats with medical
experts, support groups, help
with fi nancial pressures, referral
to other helpful local and national
resources, and more. To learn
more, visit www.lls.org/support/
Nichols also notes that it's crucial
to take time for self-care
and remember that your family
is your fi rst resource, so don't
be afraid to reach out to them
for help. Th ere are many ways
for friends and family to lighten
the load in this challenging time:
assisting with home repairs, running
errands, or preparing a
meal. Th ese kind gestures go a
long way when there's fi nancial
strain. Aft er all, if you sacrifi ce
your own health and well-being,
you won't be at your best to
eff ectively care for a loved one.
— Courtesy BPT
top doctors 2020