Finding out a loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal illness is heart wrenching. Beyond the emotional toil, end of life medical situations can be financially devastating. If your parent or another loved one has reached the point where end of life care will soon be necessary, it’s important to determine how you’ll pay for medical costs and keep your loved one as comfortable as possible.
Medicare Has its Shortcomings
Many assume that Medicare will handle the brunt of the costs for end of life care, but in most cases this proves to be untrue. One out of every four Medicare dollars is spent on services for those that are facing their last year of life, but even with this coverage, caretakers tend to find themselves saddled with astronomical costs. One study showed that out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare recipients can cost upwards of $66,000 depending on the condition or illness. If the recipient has no savings set aside for end of life care, these costs will fall on the shoulders of their family members.
A Doctor’s Assistance
Be sure to speak with your loved one about medical decisions, including resuscitation wishes, treatment options, and any medical procedures specific to the patient’s condition. This may be necessary in the case of particular directives; patient wishes aren’t always enough to ensure their preferences are followed. If you have a doctor’s written order about particular procedures or lack thereof, these wishes are more likely to be followed. Many states have made what’s known as a Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment or POLST available, which will indicated to medical professionals which procedures should be taken. As it’s signed by a doctor, it is more recognized and more likely to be followed.
If it’s become clear that there is no cure for your loved one’s ailment, hospice comfort may be the best option, but it’s important to note that it’s not a cheap one. Hospice care can make the patient more comfortable, and in many cases, actually extend their final days. One important thing to note: talk about hospice care early. Palliative care can help both patient and family cope with a terminal diagnosis, and ensure those final days are spent in the best ways possible.
While many hospice care programs are covered by Medicare and private insurance, be prepared to provide a copay for often expensive treatments and drugs. It’s important to ensure that the program you choose has been approved to receive reimbursements from Medicare, and to determine if the hospice can be realistically administered in your loved one’s home, or whether a hospital setting is more ideal.
Beyond care during the last few months or years of life, family members must also face the sad prospect of burial services. It’s not fun to talk or even think about death, but it’s important for the grieving process and for logistic reason to acknowledge its imminence, especially in end of life care situations. Traditional burials can now cost upwards of $10,000, and many life insurance policies don’t cover the costs incurred, including caskets, funeral home viewings, and flowers. It’s important to consider the ways you’ll afford burial, and speak to your loved one about their wishes for the services if possible. This way, you can respect their wishes and determine how to afford the services in advance. Dealing with the emotional trauma of the passing of a loved one need not be compounded by financial stress. Consider starting a special savings account, looking at burial insurance coverage on sites like BurialInsurance.org, or starting a crowdfunding campaign online to help offset medical costs and burial services.
Facing the fact that your loved one requires end of life care isn’t easy, but being proactive and getting expenses and logistics in line can help alleviate stress and ensure they’re given the most comfort, love, and happiness possible in their last days.