The financial impact on your family is probably the second-most stressful part of having a child with CHD. We make health care decisions based on what is best for our children, not what is best for our wallets, so we are often faced with intimidating medical bills after a hospital stay. This can cause a huge strain on young families. Being aware of financial considerations early in your child’s life can help you plan (as much as possible).
Living with Uncertainty
Having a child with CHD means living with a lot of uncertainty when it comes to expenses. Obviously, this can lead to stress. Talking with other parents of children with CHD about how they managed may be very helpful. They may also be able to point you toward some useful resources in your city, county or state that can help ease the financial burden on your family. Your hospital social worker may also be able to recommend options to help during and after your child’s hospital stay. While life has definitely become less certain for you and your family, remember that you will get through this and that help is available.
Managing Your Expenses
While you may have a lot of financial uncertainty now, there are things you can do to help keep your finances manageable. Many people want to avoid even thinking about or looking at their financial situation, but that uncertainty just leads to more stress. Facing it head-on will help you manage it and feel more in control. Here are a few tips:
- Create a new budget that includes any medical payments you may have. Schedule a day of the week to look at your bank account and pay your bills. If possible, pay off or at least reduce the balance of credit cards to minimize the interest you’ll pay on your debt.
- If you have to give up something to save money, find out if there is a less expensive alternative.
- Talk to a financial consultant. Sometimes there are ways to save money that you may not have considered. There are resources available to help families like yours manage their finances.
- Create a payment plan with your hospital or doctors. Many parents and caregivers take one look at medical bills and panic. The bills may be too big for you to handle at this time. Call the billing department and set up a payment plan you can manage. Even paying a little each month is better than avoiding bills altogether.
Understanding and mentally starting to accept the lifestyle changes that occur when you have a child with CHD can help reduce stress down the road by helping you avoid surprises. Lifestyle changes experienced by many families who have children with CHD include:
- A parent changing or leaving a job: Sometimes, a parent will need to change employers or quit his or her job to stay home with a child who has CHD. Changes in employment can happen for a variety of reasons — a need for better insurance coverage, more flexible hours, more time off or a shorter commute. These choices can cause significant stress on the family, both in terms of reduced income and reduced satisfaction for the unemployed parent, but they can also help both parents feel more secure and in control of their child’s care.
- Changes in spending: Some families who have children with CHD need to reduce spending because of medical bills or changes in employment. This can cause anger and resentment, both of which are completely normal. The best way to reduce negative feelings is to find fun things you can do as a family that are low-cost or free. Focus on the many things you have rather than the things you have to give up. This is hard to do, and there may be days when you still experience negative feelings, but focusing on the positive creates a better atmosphere for your whole family.
- Day care/childcare arrangements: Childcare may be a little trickier for the parent or caregiver of a child with CHD. Some choose to avoid day care/childcare entirely because they are concerned about exposure to illnesses. Others have to change childcare because their former provider is not willing or equipped to care for a child with CHD (CPR training, AEDs, emergency plans, etc.). Still others avoid day care around the time of surgeries but use it at other times. Ask your child’s cardiologist about day care if you are a single parent or if your family needs both parents’ incomes to pay the bills. Many children with CHD do fine in childcare situations, but others may not.
- Relying more on extended family and others. While having help from friends and extended family is a blessing, it can also cause stress for everyone involved. Parents and caregivers may feel guilty and uncomfortable about needing help, and friends and extended family often don’t know what to do to help. Remember that your friends and family want to help you, so let go of the guilt. Make a list of things that need to be done to keep your life running, and be realistic about what you have the time and energy to accomplish. Keep the list handy, and next time a friend or family member asks how they can help, pick something from the list.
The above information was taken from the Mended Little HeartGuide.
We also have a video with more on this topic.