The financial impact of head and neck cancer caregiving
A new paper published in the journal of Psycho-Oncology by researchers at the National Cancer Registry has found that head and neck cancer can have a considerable financial impact on carers.
Head and neck cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer worldwide and can cause disfigurement, either directly or indirectly (as a result of medical treatment). It can also lead to substantial problems with swallowing and speaking. It is a cancer that tends to be diagnosed in older people and often in people who are from poorer backgrounds.
31 participants were interviewed about the financial burden of caring for a relative/friend diagnosed with head and neck cancer. The study found that supporting some patients with head and neck cancer can have a serious impact on carers’ finances. Many carers experienced psychological distress as a result of their financial difficulties. The financial impact often begins soon after the patient’s diagnosis, with carers having to pay for travel and commuting costs to and from hospital. They sometimes have to give up work or reduce their working hours when their relative/friend begins treatment. Patients with head and neck cancer often have difficulties returning to fulltime work after treatment, which further reduces the income coming into the carers’ household. Carers who have pre-existing financial commitments such as mortgages expenses can find themselves in very difficult financial situations. Understandably, this causes great distress and anxiety because of the reduced household income.
Carers whose relative/friend is able to access either a medical card or state benefits appear to be financially and emotionally better off. The same is the case for those who can access a caregiver’s allowance. However a number of carers described struggling to access medical cards, which people with cancer do not automatically receive. Those who did obtain them were constantly worried that their relative/friend’s medical cards could be taken off them. Several carers also said that they and their relative/friend were unsure about their entitlements to claim social welfare allowances and medical cards.
The financial impact of caring for someone with head and neck cancer is high. Providing caregivers with the information they need to claim their entitlements aswell as access to welfare benefits may help alleviate the financial and psychological cost of caring for a loved one with head and neck cancer.