Many families place the gift of financial support from family and friends closely after their child’s life.
Parents must put their child through debilitating, painful treatments that they hope will lead to cure. Just as they embark on this long, heartbreaking journey, many discover a new enemy – the siege of medical bills and other out of pocket expenses.
Often, one parent has to stay at home to care for the child. This may result in lost income and employer-linked medical insurance.
The Financial Cost of Saving a Child’s Life and Sight
Retinoblastoma requires highly specialized care. If the hospital is far from home, the family will incur extra costs in travel, food and lodging. They may have to pay for babysitters for siblings.
Many children receive treatment on clinical trials. Insurance companies often do not fully cover “experimental” therapy, and some specifically exclude it. Even if the family has a comprehensive insurance policy, the costs may still be high with hefty premiums, deductibles and co-pays.
In the USA, more than 25% of total family income is devoured by co‑payments, travel, accommodation and other incidental expenses during childhood cancer care, even when the family is fully insured. The family of an uninsured or inadequately insured child is likely to lose savings, and some even lose their home.
Even in countries with a national insurance or health system, many families face extra financial burdens during and after their child’s treatment.
These challenges are magnified significantly in developing countries. There is no social security safety-net or national health system, and few families have medical insurance. Most people struggle to survive even without the burden of cancer, and don’t have resources to help.
The Need for Support
Contrary to popular belief, humanitarian organizations rarely fund cancer treatment due to the costs involved, and there is often no organized support such as housing or travel assistance for children with cancer and their families. Lack of funds often proves fatal and the child faces a slow, agonizingly cruel death.
Money worries heap great stress on the already overwhelmed family. Most require some form of financial assistance at some point during or after their child’s treatment.
Supporting the family financially may help them avoid a money meltdown. Many parents place this gift closely after their child’s life. In developing countries, financial support frequently is the difference between life and death.
Below are some suggestions of how you can help ease the burden, if the family is receptive or asks for support.
Set up a medical support fund for the child. Organize fundraisers to boost donations. Arrange an informal collection among work colleagues, clubs or faith family. Always discuss this with the family first to ensure they are happy for you to collect funds on their child’s behalf.
Donate your vacation. Many governments and companies operate a leave bank. This enables ailing employees or those caring for a sick relative to use leave donated by colleagues so they don’t lose pay while absent from work.
Job share. Volunteer to cover a parent who is with their child at the hospital.
Alternatively, join with several friends who have appropriate skills and donate time to rotate through the parent’s post. These arrangements help ensure the job is done, prevent financial loss to the family, and maintain harmony at the workplace.
Processing medical bills can be arduous, time consuming and bewildering. Offer to help review and organise the copious correspondence, or to enter records on the family’s computer. You could also help resolve contested claims or billing inaccuracies by communicating with the relevant agencies on the family’s behalf.
Give Useful Gifts
There are many ways you can help reduce financial burdens by giving gifts of practical value. For example, offering to fuel the family’s car or buying a toll/congestion pass, preparing meals or buying medical supplies. See the Giving Gifts page for more ideas.