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Patients and their families spend millions of dollars each year on lodging and transportation or travel for treatment. These travel costs accumulate fast, on top of the mounting medical bills for the treatment itself and normal household bills. For the average family, these costs can quickly become too much to handle.
But for many patients, especially those diagnosed with a rare cancer like mesothelioma, travel is unavoidable. Specialists for these cancers are few and spread out across the country, so it can be difficult to find the best care close to home.
Since the cost of cancer treatment continues to rise and isn’t slowing down anytime soon, patients and their families need help to keep up with all these expenses. Fighting cancer requires a support system, and a family shouldn’t have to be apart from their loved one at a time when they need each other most just because it’s too expensive.
Fortunately, there are some options for families to reduce some of this financial strain and added stress.
Hospital and Cancer Center Accommodations
The hospital or cancer clinic in which a patient is receiving treatment may offer various solutions for families to find affordable long-term lodging. Many hospitals have deals with local and surrounding hotels to provide a long-term stay at a reduced rate. This can, however, still be too expensive for many patients to handle. Some may also run into issues with booking a room for a long period of time, and may find themselves having to switch rooms or hotels in the event of a busy season.
Some hospitals also offer their own hospitality housing for family members of patients undergoing care for cancer or other diseases. Many have some basic eligibility criteria for the patients or family guests depending on the circumstances of the stay, including:
- Length of commute from their home to treatment facility (e.g., at least an hour away)
- The patient is actively in treatment
- Having a permanent address to return to after treatment is finished
- Guests’ ability to care for themselves, as these facilities generally don’t provide their own healthcare support
- Patients and guests being free of any infectious conditions that could put others at risk
These requirements and accommodations available will vary, so it’s important to make sure you have all the details from the hospital first. In most instances, being able to book lodging at these hospitality houses can only occur through a referral from a patient’s social worker at their medical center.
It’s also important to keep in mind there may be a waiting list at these facilities depending on how many patients they can accommodate at one time. Patients and their families may need to find other options depending on their needs and treatment schedule.
Patients can also find a variety of organizations that offer free or reduced rates for lodging near hospitals and cancer centers. There are national resources, as well as state-specific organizations that can help patients and their families find the appropriate lodging for their needs.
One such resource patients can use is the Healthcare Hospitality Network (HHN), a national nonprofit with almost 200 different lodging options and support services around the country. The network features a variety of home settings from small, private accommodations to houses that can host 100 or more patients at one time. HHN is dedicated to fitting any patient’s unique needs, and creating a supportive community of patients during such a hard time.
The American Cancer Society also offers patients free lodging through their Hope Lodge program. There are currently 32 Hope Lodges located throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, and they’re actively working on building more to help the growing number of cancer patients and their loved ones. These Hope Lodges offer patients and their caregivers a comfortable, home-like environment where they can retreat to private rooms or seek support in a common area. In 2014 alone, the Hope Lodges were able to help over 44,000 patients and their families, which saved an estimated $36 million in lodging expenses.
Joe’s House is another nonprofit resource available to patients in need of affordable lodging. They have a network of lodging partners that offer reduced rate lodging facilities for cancer patients or those needing treatment for any diagnosis. Joe’s House allows patients to search for lodging based on rate or proximity to a particular healthcare facility.
Just like with the medical center programs, each of these lodging facilities have their own eligibility criteria and might also face long waiting lists. Patients and their caregivers should be sure to research each option and speak with their social worker to determine what’s available and the best deal for their individual needs.
Patients and their families should also look into organizations that can help with affordable travel and transportation needs. If a specialist lives far away from a patient’s hometown, it can become expensive traveling back and forth for treatments and procedures. Various organizations offer reduced price or free airfare for cancer patients and their caregivers.
Organizations like Corporate Angel Network, Angel Flight, and Air Charity Network all provide free transportation for patients facing cancer or any harsh diagnosis and their families. These volunteer networks work across the country for families in a strained financial situation.
Some patients may also be eligible for grants to help offset some of these costs. CancerCare is one such organization that provides financial assistance for travel and other needs for cancer patients in the United States and Puerto Rico.
Just like with the hospitality housing, these organizations and grants also typically have their own eligibility criteria. Patients should be sure to research their options to determine what they might qualify for and what will best fit their needs.
A cancer diagnosis comes with a lot of uncertainties, including how to manage the constantly growing bills. Fortunately, there are various organizations working to help these families stay together throughout a loved one’s cancer journey regardless of their financial situation.