Tuesday, 5 July 2016

The True Cost of Chronic Illness

I'm very fortunate in that my chronic illness doesn't require too much financial input. But there are costs involved in being ill that I don't think people are always aware of, and there are illnesses and disabilities out there that cause a much bigger financial strain. 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 painkillers: 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. 

Various other medical items: 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, heatpacks, support tape...the list goes on.

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. 

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 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! 

Gym membership: I personally would not have a gym membership if I didn't need to do exercise to improve the strength in my muscles. I hate exercising, so I definitely wouldn't do it if I didn't have to. But I do, so this is another one of my regular illness-related outgoings. 

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. 

Little Treats: Everyone gets themselves little treats every now and again, and everyone deserves to. But when you feel rubbish all the time, when you're fatigued and in pain and fed up all the time, it's hard not to want to treat yourself all the time. It's hard not to order a new dress, or pick up some nice chocolate, or choose a new cleanser when you just feel so awful all the time and want something, anything, to make you feel a bit better. Even for a short time. But those things add up, and so does their effect on your bank balance.

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. 

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!