Sunday, August 26, 2012

Guest post: Financial Hardship and RA

I'm SO GRATEFUL for my guest writer this week, who showed up right when I was trying to figure out how I'd ever get a post out during such an incredibly hellish month! Please enjoy and share your thoughts and feelings about this post - I know that for me, financial hardship is an ever looming threat. I need three doctors, ten or eleven prescriptions, and money for school, but I'm struggling to make ends meet because very few employers are truly willing to hire someone with as obvious disability as mine has become (which is a WHOLE different topic for another day!) Without the support of my loved ones, I'd be in some pretty serious financial trouble.

Thank you again to Alex, who took the time to write this very concise post on the topic.

Financial Hardship and RA

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease that affects the small joints in the body. It is one of two major forms of arthritis. Unlike the normal “wear and tear’ damage of osteoarthritis, RA affects the joint linings. This causes swelling and stiffness that is very painful.

Most people living with rheumatoid arthritis experience physical pain every day of their lives. Many experience another kind of pain too: pain in the pocket book. Financial hardship is a common concern for many RA sufferers. Living with rheumatoid arthritis has may financial implications and often requires financial support.

The early stages of RA usually affect the hands and feet. Tender, swollen joints cause pain, but the condition is manageable with over-the-counter or prescription medication. As it progresses, arthritis may spread to the knees, hips, elbows and shoulders. The pain becomes more severe, and the treatment gets more expensive.

Over time, RA causes deformities that shift the joints out of place. This can cause constant, sometimes severe, pain and damage. Medications may no longer help people with severe arthritis, and surgery is sometimes necessary.

Many people with rheumatoid arthritis give up work or reduce their hours on the clock because of their condition. Those who do this earn less income and add to their financial hardship. People who retire from work early because of RA often receive a pension. However, the medical costs associated with arthritis treatment cause their pension funds to dwindle quickly.

People with arthritis may take several different drugs to reduce inflammation, relieve pain and slow the progression of RA. Most of the medications are prescription drugs. Many patients require stronger drugs, or a combination of drugs, as their disease progresses.

Even with health insurance, the cost of some of the medications can be expensive. Yearly prescription charges and pre-payment vouchers make treating RA more economical.

Arthritis sufferers have many costs other than medications. Some people buy special equipment to help them live normally at home. Handrails, bath lifts, walk-in showers, riser chairs, higher beds and even microwave ovens make everyday life easier for people with RA. They also increase financial hardship.

Simply living alone can add to the financial burden. Those with severe
arthritis cannot do the same things as healthy individuals. They need help with housekeeping, yard work and personal care. People with RA often have to pay for house cleaning, laundry services, ironing, gardening, grocery delivery and even things like having their hair washed.

Transportation costs also increase as rheumatoid arthritis progresses. Not everyone can afford an automatic car with power steering, and bus or taxi fares can add up quickly. Those who are unable to drive themselves often rely on more expensive train or air travel. Additionally, people with a disability often pay higher automobile and vacation insurance premiums.

Fortunately, those living with rheumatoid arthritis have some options when it comes to requesting financial support. Americans with RA can apply for Social Security disability benefits. In the United Kingdom, they can apply for a Disability Living Allowance. Local social service offices can help people determine their options and eligibility for these and other financial support programs.

Alex Kerwin works closely with A Forever Recovery. Their self help track allows the client to attend self-help supports groups, fellowships and other recovering communities.


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