Chronic illnesses are shit – there’s no two ways about it.
Everyone knows someone who has a chronic illness. Your neighbour who has diabetes. Your mam and her MS. Your childhood best friend who you haven’t seen for years who has Crohn’s.
Or maybe you’re the one with the chronic illness and that’s why you’re on this blog.
That’s almost a quarter of the population – so why aren’t we talking more about the reality of a chronic illness?
In my day-to-day, I talk to so many people who’ve recently been diagnosed with a chronic illness. Their life is changing – they know that – and they want financial cover.
The financial side of things isn’t really talked about – so I’m gonna dive into that, as well as six other things that no one tells you about.
And don’t worry: none of it is bullshit about how you’ll absolutely definitely be okay through the power of positivity or those vitamins the Kardashians hawk on Instagram.
Most people are well-intentioned but that doesn’t mean they’re helpful. Your aunt sending prayers, good thoughts or religious bits in the post is a nice idea, but it’s not going to do much for your actual wellbeing.
Your friends and family will try to be helpful; they’ll all have tips they’ve read online or that someone else told them about how this one multivitamin will solve all your problems. Listen. Smile. Ignore.
Your relationships with the people around you will change: your chronic illness may make you tired and sore and grumpy. You may snap at your loved ones – but feck ‘em, they can put up with it for a bit, while you get used to your new reality.
Chronic illnesses are an epidemic. Again: one in four people in Ireland has one. Lots of health institutions recommend lifestyle intervention to help many chronic health problems.
In some cases, it’ll help. Manage your diet. Take your vitamins. Get in exercise, if you can. In other cases, changing your lifestyle will do sweet FA.
I’m not a doctor – not for a second – but my line of work means many of my clients are people with chronic illnesses. For people with severe chronic illnesses, it’s not a lifestyle thing at all – but your lifestyle is still going to change.
You’ll monitor your diet. You’ll probably need more sleep. You may even have to give up your job.
It sucks, but you need to look out for numero uno and work towards relieving the symptoms of your disease.
Information is power, but too much information can be a dangerous thing. Same goes for too little information.
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of Googling everything you can about your illness: sitting in the glow of your laptop at one in the morning, looking for new research or support groups or giving out about how exhausted you feel.
Community and information are so important especially as going to a doctor or the hospital for treatment can feel so clinical. However, stress and exhaustion will only make you sicker so if you’re reading all the bad stuff you can find or you’re giving in to negativity too much, it may be time to put the internet away.
Not everyone in the Facebook group should be listened to is what I’m saying.
Doctors. Appointments. Medication. An awful lot of work goes into looking after yourself if you have a chronic illness.
If you have to work as well, it’s exhausting. If you are working, don’t fall into the trap of pretending you’re fine when you’re not. Talk to your manager and see how your workplace can help.
Doctors. Appointments. Medication: rinse and repeat.
Add in any lost days from work and you could be looking a financial black hole square in the face. If you’ve got a chronic illness that will force you out of work entirely, you’ll need a plan. You’ll find a list of government options for disability and illness on CitizensInformation.ie.
The big ones include Illness Benefit and Disability Allowance.
Illness Benefit is a payment for people who can’t work due to an illness and who have made enough PRSI contributions. Disability Allowance, then, is a weekly payment for people who can’t work because of a disability. It’s means tested and the maximum weekly rate for a qualified adult is €131.40.
That’s not a lot of money – especially if you’re going from a good career to being out of work for a while.
Non-government insurance-y type options exist, like Serious Illness Cover and Income Protection.
There is a caveat: if you’re reading this after diagnosis you likely won’t be able to get Income Protection or Serious Illness Cover for that illness – but you can safeguard yourself in the future. You can likely still get Life Insurance though, which can be a big relief for your financial future.
Serious Illness Cover pays you a lump sum if you’re diagnosed with a serious illness as defined in your policy document.
With Income Protection, you can insure up to 75 percent of your before-tax income (minus the state illness benefit).
Essentially, Income Protection provides a replacement monthly income until you go back to work or your policy ends.
If you’ve got a chronic illness and you’re out of work, Income Protection is probably your best bet to keep things ticking over financially.
As for getting Life Insurance if you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic illness, you may pay more than if you’ve no health issues.
I help people get insurance all the time. Because I’m a broker, I work with all six major Irish insurers and I know which one is the most sympathetic to your illness.
Being optimistic is great, but if you’re feeling terrible and someone insists you’ll be fine if you think happy thoughts, you may be tempted to tell them where to stick their positivity.
You can if you want – it’s probably therapeutic.
For some illnesses, diagnosis is easy. For others (like autoimmune issues), it can be an absolute head-wreck. Doctors might dismiss you as tired or run-down or in need of a break, whereas you’re certain that something just isn’t right.
You may be told that you’re imagining things or that you’re not able to cope with being tired or stressed.
It’s easy to feel like you’re exaggerating your symptoms or that you’re reading too much into the pain. It can feel lonely, especially if you ‘seem fine’ or you haven’t got a diagnosis yet.
Getting a diagnosis can be upsetting – but cathartic too. Depending on the illness, you might need to take some time to grieve for the life you thought you’d have.
That’s not to say that you won’t feel good again. You will – and when you do, celebrate it.
Do you want to sort out the tricky financial, insurance-y stuff? I can help.
I work with people with chronic illnesses all the time (you can read my testimonials here) so I can help you secure your future too.
Give me a call on or complete this short questionnaire and I’ll be right back.
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