Posted on July 20, 2016
How being disabled will cost you
Slowly working my way towards becoming the Terminator
It’s taken me awhile to come to terms with the fact that I am capital D, disabled. Of course, I shouldn’t be shocked when the reality is that 1 in 4 people who are 20 today will be disabled before they retire. Still, it’s probably a good time to discuss how disability throws a wrench into things, especially financially. Here are a few examples what I have discovered:
Having neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery both within four days really messes up your ability to move and I hear it could be up to 18 months until I know the extent of the damage. Still, I am fairly mobile now but there are some hefty costs to disability – even minor ones – that people don’t think about.
Yeah, a walking cast is $150 out of pocket
Money talks but I can’t walk
*groooooan* “Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week. Try the fish!”
When I left the hospital, I was in a wheelchair for 7 weeks. In order for me to be mobile & manage daily tasks, we ended up having to purchase or rent a whole slew of mobility products just so I could live a normal life: we a rented wheelchair and bench for the shower, we bought a handle for the shower so I could lift myself in and out, we bought a bedrail so I could get into bed easily. While I have some excellent benefits, my benefits don’t cover anything above the wheelchair. So essentially, we were out almost $500 dollars.
Luckily, my need for most of the above things were temporary but I have a friend who has a degenerative disability who relies on her wheelchair daily. Although her benefits covered the wheelchair, when the remote on the arm broke she ended up having to pay almost $2000 out-of-pocket to get it fixed. Same with all the things I mentioned above: she needs a bench to shower, too, but again those assistive devices that help her with everyday tasks aren’t covered. They won’t even cover a ramp so that a wheelchair can access your house.
Built by Mr. Tucker with the expert direction of a friend for the cost of the wood
Given that I am being followed by four doctors right now, you can imagine the amount of time I have to take off work to get to appointments (and all the parking I have to pay!). Toss on the physiotherapy I am supposed to do, add my prescriptions and it’s a lot of money. Sure, my benefits cover a portion of these things but there is always a percentage that comes out of my pocket. I also am grateful that I am allowed time off for appointments and that I have an understanding boss who lets me make up the time. I took a lot of unpaid time off when I had the original surgeries as well, which cost us a lot at the time where were bleeding money (see above).
Granted, I am doing much better now so a lot of the things I needed before I no longer need. The prescriptions are done, the assistive devices returned, and I am slowly getting back into managing daily tasks unassisted. Still, there are some residual things that could continue up to 18 months (or longer).
Meet Happy Fun Bag: only partially covered!
Lifestyle choices when they aren’t a choice
Most people know that to save money you have to reduce your outgo. One of the ways to do this is to rethink transportation. For example, you can avoid driving and use your own power to get around. A bike is a close second for distances, and then public transportation. But because the physical challenges I have right now, Mr. Tucker ends up driving me to work in the morning. That’s because I only have one good distance walk in me and so I save it for the evenings when I take the bus home. Traffic-wise, the evenings are always worse so it’s better to avoid driving at that time. I did have big plans to bike to work this summer but I am just not steady enough on my feet to be able to manage that safely. So now we have to pay extra in gas, and of course wear-and-tear on the car is an issue. We did explore having me drive myself to work but the parking downtown is an extra $200-$300, so it made sense just to have Mr. Tucker drive me in the morning & have me take the bus at night.
Since I am limited in terms of mobility, I also can’t do a whole slew of other things I used to do to save money: hanging laundry on the line is out because I can’t carry heavy loads up from the basement. Gardening even the small things we usually did is out because I can’t bend over. I can’t stand for long periods of time so batch cooking huge meals and freezing them is out – not that I can access the freezer downstairs anyway. Even though I could ask Mr. Tucker to do a lot of the stuff I used to do, it’s just impossible for one person. In the end, something has to give so we could have our sanity. You are only as fast as your fastest teammate after all.
Even if I could wheel outside, the grab arm doesn’t hold the weight of laundry
Still, what I am hoping is that I will get better, sturdier, and more able to help as the weeks go on. I will get back on my feet (so to speak) and be able to do all the things I used to do. Even walking to the library with the kids – one of my favourite things to do – is not even possible because it’s a couple of miles away. I used to love that walk & would tell anyone who would listen that it was a perfect distance. Now even thinking of how long and how painful that walk would be is a daunting.
It amazes me on how much time (which is also money) it takes me to do things and how I have to consider the terrain when I am out. I used to be able to make it to the bus stop in under 5 minutes, now it is more like 12. Because I move so slowly and some routes aren’t available to me, it has completely changed the way I live my life. I have to plan these big swaths of time around my errands because I know my mobility isn’t great and that I have limitations.
I get by with a little help from my friends
Patience in all things
When you are incredibly independent having to a> rely on others, b> change your entire lifestyle, can be a huge hurdle. Financially however, it can be decimating. We luckily had savings but were also able to use a combination of credit cards and direct billing to our benefits. Credit cards were super helpful in buying us time to pay the bills until we were out of the hospital and back at home so we could take the time to organize ourselves & bill the insurance company. We were super lucky to have money set aside for emergencies, and this was the perfect time to use it.
No one ever believes that they will be disabled but people also think of disabled as some permanent condition. Oftentimes, a disability is temporary and you can go back to your life. But regardless of whether or not it is a temporary or permanent, being disabled is incredibly expensive even for people who have lots of support and great benefits. Having money set aside for emergencies helps negate these expenses and reduces the worry that comes along with dealing with a whole pile of bills at a time where you may be mentally and physically exhausted. I am grateful I get to convalesce without worrying about how we are going to manage the bills. Of course, now to build the fund back up…
“So on a scale of zero to contestant-on-RuPaul’s-drag-race, what’s your financial pain level?”