Tuesday 5 July 2016

The True Cost of Chronic Illness

I'm very fortunate in that my chronic illness doesn't require as much financial input as many other people need. But there are costs involved in being ill that I don't think people are always aware of. I know I'm in the privileged position of living at home, where while I do contribute to the rent and bills it's at a much lower rate than if I lived alone. But I thought it would be interesting to look at the costs I do have, those things I wouldn't have to budget money for if I wasn't chronically ill. 

Over the counter meds: I get prescription painkillers, but I take Paracetamol alongside them because it increases their efficacy, even though it doesn't do anything on its own for my pain, and Ibuprofen helps if my pain is caused by exercise, so they are worth having. But I feel like enough of a drain on the NHS without getting these on a prescription (I once read an article about the cost of all the Paracetamol prescriptions). So I buy them. They don't cost a lot, but given that I can get through a pack of Paracetamol in 2 days if my pain is bad, it certainly does add up. When you add in the cost of Paracetamol with Codeine which I like to have onhand and is much pricier than standard Paracetamol, this cost increases. I get a lot of acid reflux (thanks medication), so I need a lot of antacids. I'm quite fussy about them and I only like this one brand (Remegel) which is sadly on the pricier end. Then there's anti-inflammatory gel, Epsom Salts to add to baths, various supplements...etc

Adaptive Aids: Many disabled and chronically ill people need mobility aids like wheelchairs and mobility scooters which often have to be bought privately at huge costs. Then there's things like canes or crutches as well. For me, I need aids such as heatpacks and hot water bottles to help with my pain, a TENS machine, a massager, adapted cutlery...the list goes on and the cost goes up. 

NHS Pre-Payment Prescription Card: If you get a certain amount of prescriptions a year, you are entitled to get one of these cards which entails paying a fixed amount every year towards your prescriptions and being able to get as many as you need. So while it does work out significantly cheaper than paying for individual prescriptions, it's an additional costs you wouldn't have if you didn't need the prescriptions in the first place. 

Transport/Travel: As a disabled person I often struggle to walk, and if I'm in a lot of pain then waiting for and being on cold, jolting public transport isn't possible. Even the vibration of the bus engine can set one of my limbs spasming if it's a bad day. In those cases I need taxis and those need paying for. If I'm flying, I need extra legroom seats a lot. And ofc travel insurance is more if you have pre-existing conditions. I might have to pay more for accommodation so it is close to transport/has multiple beds because I can struggle to share if I'm ill. I usually have to travel extra days so I can fit in rest periods, and take extra days annual leave for recovery. 

Footwear: I have to be super careful about what shoes I wear because so many of my problems are exacerbated by poor/unsupportive footwear. I was very lucky to get my insoles on the NHS, but I need the shoes to go with them. Sadly I can't just pick up a pair of ballet flats in Primark, new shoes mean Dr Martens or decent trainers right now. And while you certainly get value for money with the amount of time they last, the initial outgoing is high. Plus I like having multiple pairs, no one wants only one pair of shoes! 

Macbook Air: I definitely needed a new laptop, but I wouldn't have necessarily gone with a Macbook had I not been chronically ill. As well as needing something with a decent spec, I mostly needed something lightweight that I could carry around, that I could have on my knees, that I could pick up without worrying I was going to hurt myself or drop it. And I couldn't find that outside of my Macbook Air.

Convenience Food: One of my biggest regular chronic illness-related outgoings is on convenience food. This is lower now I live at home and work part-time as my mum cooks my dinners and I don't stay at work for lunch, but when I lived in London I was always far too tired/lacking in energy to prepare food. I would buy my lunch out, at a cost of at least £3 a day (usually more), and I would almost always buy a ready meal/takeaway for dinner too. This meant my foodbill was over twice what it could have been if I'd prepared my own food. Many chronically ill people need special foods that cost more due to allergies or intolerances and these are always significantly more expensive.

Money lost: Then there's the financial losses. The income I lose from only being able to work part-time. At the moment I work half hours, so I lose out on half the income I could be earning. Plus I do a lower level job than I was doing previously, as I wanted something lower-stress. That too has reduced my monthly income.  And there's the money lost on cancelled plans. I fortunately have an Unlimited card, so if I can't go on a pre-arranged cinema trip it doesn't cost me any extra. But I recently missed out on a theatre trip because I was too ill, which meant I lost the money I paid for tickets. I've also had to miss a couple of book events, and while the tickets for these aren't that expensive, missing multiple ones can add up. 

How does having a chronic illness affect your bank balance?


  1. I think most people overlook the additional cost of having a chronic illness or disability. I've seen comments on friends fundraisers for power chairs telling them that the NHS will fund this, when in a number of areas that's just not the case. People think they know what the processes are & what help is available without having experienced it personally. Yes, in a perfect world everyone will get the wheelchair they need on the NHS, for example, but we don't live in a perfect world! People need to be more aware of the extra cost, rather than being closed minded & ignoring the flaws in the system. Xx

    Tania | When Tania Talks

    1. Absolutely - I feel so grateful that I don't (yet) need more substantial mobility aids than insoles, which thankfully I could get on the NHS. Seeing so many people struggle to get the aids they need is just so sad - plus the extra stress involved like you're currently experiencing, it's not what we need!