You may be wondering, “Why would I want to think about financial considerations now? I am focused on my child in the hospital. I’ll worry about that later. Financial information will just give me more stress than I already have.” That is a valid point, and you do need to focus on your son or daughter, but many of us who have been through a hospitalization with our child wish that we had known some of this information earlier. It could have actually reduced stress and saved us some money too.
Regardless of their socio-economic status, families of children with CHD are financially impacted when their child requires surgeries or other medical interventions. They are not only faced with medical costs, but also normal financial obligations, such as mortgage payments, household expenses and childcare for their other children. Many have to make lifestyle changes such as changing or quitting a job and reducing expenses. This impacts the entire family.
Although costs involved in having a child with CHD are often unpredictable, planning for these expenses as early as possible can help your family stay financially healthy throughout your child’s hospital stay and CHD treatment.
Obviously, having a child in the hospital incurs medical costs, but many people don’t realize that there are other costs involved as well. Understanding what these additional expenses are and becoming familiar with the resources available to you can help. Here are some tips for reducing and managing the cost of a hospital stay:
Gas and Parking
Gas and parking costs can add up if you are driving to and from the hospital regularly. If your child will be in the hospital for an extended period, you may want to consider public transit or carpool options. Your hospital may also have rooms where you can stay from time to time to reduce the amount of driving you’ll need to do. If you travel to another city or state for your child’s hospital stay and are staying near the hospital, there may be shuttles or other forms of transportation that are free or less expensive than gas and parking. There is often a parking discount available for parents and family members of hospitalized children. Ask your hospital social worker about this as soon as possible.
If you are traveling to another city or state for your child’s surgery, you’ll likely need to pay for accommodation. Extended family members who are traveling to be with you during this time might also need a place to stay. Here are a few options that can save you money:
- Ronald McDonald Houses: In many cities, Ronald McDonald Houses, hospitality houses or other facilities are available for the immediate family of children in the hospital if the family lives more than a certain distance away (typically 30 to 50 miles). Ask your hospital social worker about this as soon as you find out that you will be in another city for your child’s hospital stay. In many cases, you will need to let them know that you are coming ahead of time to get your name on a list for a room. The cost of this lodging, if any, is usually low (around $15 a night) and many Ronald McDonald Houses offer a shuttle to the hospital to save you from paying for gas and parking.
- Hospital sleeping rooms: Some hospitals have sleeping rooms for parents, but they are often on a first-come, first-serve basis and not ideal for long stays. They may, however, be a good short-term solution for parents who need a place to sleep immediately after their child’s surgery or procedure. Siblings of a child in the hospital usually cannot use the hospital sleeping rooms and will need another place to stay.
- Nearby hotels: Sometimes nearby hotels offer discounts to families of children in the hospital Ask hotels to see if they offer any type of discount for families and if they need any documentation showing that your child is in the hospital. If you have friends or family members with hotel rewards points, consider asking them if they would donate them to you to help you reduce lodging costs. Many people are very willing to share these reward points.
- Until you stay in the hospital for a while, you don’t realize how expensive hospital food can get — especially during long stays. There are some ways to save money on food though. Many hospitals give discounts (usually 10 percent) to parents of children who are in the hospital for treatment. Some hospitals also have hospitality rooms or other areas where there may be food for families. Find out if there are days and times when food is available at your hospital. Ronald McDonald Houses and hospitality houses often prepare dinners for families staying there and put leftovers in the refrigerator for families to eat when they get back from visiting at the hospital. Occasionally, hospitals have funds to help families with food costs while their child is hospitalized. Your hospital social worker will know if there are any programs like that available to you. Breastfeeding moms are eligible for a meal in some hospitals; ask whether this is an option in your hospital (even if you are pumping).
The above information was taken from the Mended Little HeartGuide. It can be found online at here.