Financial Considerations for Those Facing a Terminal Cancer Diagnosis

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Sometimes we feature guest posts on our Walker Cares blog. Today’s post comes to us from author Scott Sanders. He is the creator of, which provides resources and support for anyone who has been affected by any form of cancer. He is also the author of the book Put Yourself First: A Guide to Self-care and Spiritual Wellness During and After Cancer Treatment.



When you or someone you care about receives a diagnosis of terminal cancer, chances are the last thing you want to think about is money.  However, sorting out finances can alleviate additional stress during what is already a difficult time.  Here are a few suggestions for finding financial grounding so you and loved ones can have some peace of mind.


Talking with loved ones


One of the biggest concerns that must be tackled regarding financial planning involves talking over circumstances with loved ones.  When it comes time to have “the conversation,” ensure those involved know what end-of-life arrangements are desirable.  While that is an uncomfortable topic, having that conversation while the situation is relatively stable can provide direction for loved ones, instead of trying to guess at wishes or making choices when pressed for time or under emotional stress.  Some decisions are especially personal, so talking through things can clarify direction. In addition, these choices bear directly on finances.  Some people prefer to fight cancer aggressively until their final moments, which will require different preparation than for someone who prefers to spend their time at home.


End-of-life planning and Medicare


When planning end-of-life arrangements, many people participate in what is termed an advance-care planning session.  The Seattle Times points out costs for these sessions can be covered by Medicare, and the sessions are a useful tool in determining what choices are most appropriate for you or your loved one.  Medicare Advantage plans are another important resource for those facing a terminal cancer diagnosis.  You can use them as supplemental help for prescription expenses, dental coverage and vision coverage, which can come in handy after rigorous cancer treatment.  Be sure to note the enrollment dates and requirements for Part C.


Working and disability


Whether you are facing terminal cancer or tending a loved one with terminal cancer, you might be considering stopping work to manage care and treatments.  If you are like most people, it’s in your best interest to continue to work as long as possible.  Chicago Tribune points out the benefits from your employer can play a major role in covering medical expenses.  Some employers allow you to purchase added life and disability coverage without meeting particular medical criteria.


Continuing to invest in a retirement plan is also advisable under some circumstances, since you may need to tap into the funds later to pay for medical expenses, even if you don’t expect to use it toward retirement.  Once someone with a terminal illness stops working they can apply for Social Security disability benefits and expedite processing of the application.  However, it still takes five months to receive those benefits, and you need to cover medical expenses in the meantime.  Since income is reduced, it’s the perfect time to reach into those retirement benefits.  The 10 percent penalty for early withdrawals is normally waived for those who are on disability.


Sources of funds


There are several other resources for paying for terminal cancer treatment.  Credit cards are an option for paying expenses as well as lines of credit.  As far as liquidating investments, it’s important to ensure assets are as easily accessible as possible.  You don’t want to have to wait lengthy periods to liquefy holdings, as cash flow is a priority.  Another way to improve cash flow is to sell something you own outright such as an extra vehicle or vacation property.


Low-cost or free care


If you are someone without insurance and are considering where you can receive low-cost or free health services, one suggestion is to contact your local health department and hospital social workers about public health care resources.  Veterans and their surviving spouses are entitled to palliative or hospice care through the Veterans Administration.


Coping with a terminal diagnosis is an emotional experience for you and those you love.  It’s important to explore payment options and be aware of how you will cover costs.  Making a financial plan can provide peace of mind during this difficult time.


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