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Financial support during long-term illness

8-minute read

After a diagnosis of long-term, or chronic illness, there may be a few practical things to think about. You may need to consider the costs of treatment and support. In turn, you may then need to think about factors such as:

  • travel and accommodation costs
  • childcare costs
  • if you can work while receiving treatment

If you are in hospital, or if you can’t work, this can have a financial impact. You may be worried about your family, and how they will cope with this.

Worrying about practical issues can affect the way you feel. It is important to think about these issues, and learn about available support.

What is the cost of treatment?

If you have a chronic illness, as part of your treatment you may need to:

  • take medication
  • use medical equipment
  • receive therapy
  • attend specialist appointments

The cost of your treatment will depend upon a few factors, including if you:

  • are treated in the public or private system
  • are working and have to take time off
  • live in a rural area and need to travel for treatment
  • have private health insurance

Prior to treatment, you should ask your doctor about their fees.

Speak with your nurse or another member of your healthcare team about access to a social worker or welfare worker. A social worker can give you information about what financial and practical support services are available for you.

Some treatments for your illness may be covered (or partly covered) by Medicare. These can include:

  • specialist appointments
  • scans
  • surgeries

Medicines that are listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, are available to you at a cheaper price.

If you need to use special medical equipment, you can also receive support to:

  • acquire the equipment
  • run the medical equipment

For this support, you can contact Services Australia.

Talk to your local Medicare office about the 'safety net' on costs of medications and medical bills.

You may also be eligible to apply for the JobSeeker payment. This may be useful if you can’t work or study for a while because of illness. This can help you afford treatments.

Clinical trials

A clinical trial is a research study on humans. Joining a clinical trial can give you access to new medicines and treatments before they are available to others. If you participate in a clinical trial, your expenses may be covered.

Not everyone is suitable for a clinical trial. You can visit the Australian Clinical Trials website to find out more about clinical trials. You can check if any available trials are testing treatment for your illness.

What government-assisted travel schemes are available?

You may need to travel for treatment in a hospital far away from home. You may be able to get help with the cost of accommodation and travel.

Each state and territory has a government-funded scheme. These schemes help patients who have to travel long distances to obtain specialist treatment that is not available locally. You can contact the scheme in your state or territory:

Can I work with a long-term illness?

Deciding whether you continue working will depend on your health, financial situation, and priorities. If you are feeling well, you may find that continuing to work is helpful. Some people feel they want to make changes in their work life, such as:

  • working part-time or flexible hours
  • leaving work to spend time doing things they enjoy, or have always wanted to do
  • changing their career
  • doing volunteer work

If you have a chronic illness, you can receive support outside of family and friends. If you feel you need support to make decisions about your work, talk to your doctor. They can refer you to a health professional who is experienced in counselling.

A discussion with your personnel manager or supervisor early after your return to work will be useful in understanding expectations.

Tips for returning to work

  • Plan how and who to tell about your work arrangements.
  • Give your work as much notice as possible if you need to take leave.
  • Explore options for part-time work or flexible hours.
  • Ask for leave before you feel tired or burnt out.
  • Keep records of your work hours
  • Keep records of discussions or correspondence with your supervisor or manager.

How do I manage my life with a long-term illness?

Chronic illnesses, both physical and mental, can affect the way you live. It can be a financial burden if you are unwell, or if you are caring for someone with an illness.

Depending on where you live, you may be able to get assistance with childcare, meals, and general home help.

If you have a long-term illness, you may have access to assistance with living expenses, such as:

  • child disability assistance payment
  • disability support pension
  • mobility allowance
  • rent assistance
  • telephone allowance

If you care for someone with a chronic illness, you may be eligible for financial assistance. This may include a carer allowance.

More information can be found on the Services Australia website.

How do I manage my finances with a long-term illness?

If you are diagnosed with a long-term illness, it is a good idea to plan your budget early.

You can talk to a trained financial advisor about your options for managing treatment costs, which can include:

  • accessing your superannuation early
  • accessing insurance payments

More information

Sources of support include:

  • financial planner or financial counsellor
  • Centrelink
  • church/religious or volunteer groups
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs
  • meals-on-wheels
  • occupational therapist for practical advice and aids
  • palliative care team to help with pain
  • physiotherapist to help with mobility and exercises
  • private nursing agencies
  • social worker at your hospital
  • your community/district nurse
  • your GP
  • your local council

You can also find financial resources and assistance specific for your illness. You may contact different organisations about support for:

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: June 2023

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