Does it follow that if your finances are in poor shape so too must your health be?
This is a question that has been rearing its head in my household for the past couple of years and it was brought home to us last week that despite the “free” healthcare we are entitled to here in the UK, that yes, poor finances do mean that your health is going to be poor too.
Let me explain.
Our finances have been tight for a number of years now, ironically since I became too ill to work and our household income halved overnight, and bit by bit we have had to drop non-essential things and some questionably-essential things off our list of spending. More recently – in the past two years or so – we have had to drop things off our list more and more of the “questionably” essential things and quite a lot of the essential things too. If you have had financial difficulties yourself you will know what I mean. You don’t simply drop a level in the supermarket, you sometimes drop the supermarket altogether; there’s nothing in the kitty for “treats”, like school trips for the kids; you learn how to cut your own hair because the £20 for a haircut can be better spent on soap and laundry detergent for the household. You get the idea.
But the health thing, the health thing. That one really hurts me. You may know that I have regular medication to keep me in a semi-working condition so that I can get about and DO stuff, and it is a cost that we just have to absorb into our monthly spend. I have no choice really – well I do, if I am content to writhe about in pain all day and never be able to stand upright or go outside the house ever again. There have been times when difficult choices have been made, and there have been times when I’ve not been proud of the outcome of those decisions. I’m not condoning telling lies to the NHS but sometimes there is simply no choice.
And so to the incident last week where it was brought home to us just how if affects people who have not got the money to look after their health. Both Kevin and I wear glasses all the time – I have done since before I could even sit up properly in my pram and Kevin because of his age and the usual, expected deterioration in his eyesight – and we have both been told that we should have our eyes tested every twelve months now. You can guess what I’m going to say next, can’t you? Yes, that’s right: we haven’t had the money available for the eye test nor the resulting new glasses for a number of years. It’s beginning to sound like a mantra isn’t it? But it’s true. One of the things that went off the spending list was trips to the opticians. We both felt that we could manage with the glasses we were wearing, and with some adjustments we could make do and accept that we would just struggle with poor eyesight for a while longer. And a bit longer. And even a bit longer after that.
Until December when we realised that enough was enough and we just had to go and get our eyes checked. I was getting terrible headaches and I couldn’t spend very much time reading or studying as I ought to be doing because my eyes were hurting after such a short time. I have not been able to do cross-stitching for ages now because I’ve not been able to see properly, but in recent months I’ve not been able to do any crochet neither. Now that’s major because you’ve seen the size of a crochet hook? Well, I couldn’t focus on it!
But that’s not the worst. Kevin has been struggling for longer than me, and it’s worse for him because he’s an IT manager and needs to be able to see a computer screen to do his job. He’s been getting neck-ache because of leaning in to see his screen at work and has been avoiding driving at dusk because of difficulties in focussing at twilight. Not easy.
So, we bit the bullet and went to have our eyes tested last week. And the news is not good for Kevin. He has got to go to the eye hospital because they have picked up a problem with both his eyes, which if it is not treated could lead to him going blind in a few years time. It frightens me to think that we had been putting off eye tests for so long and had we not gone last week, how much more damage would have been done to his eyesight before we had enough money to go and find out? It’s not just a matter of having the right lenses by which to see, but eye health in general which is at stake.
In terms of what we have to juggle to make ends come close (no question of them actually meeting at the minute), I can do without haircuts, I can do without food, I can do without luxuries and treats and holidays and days out and trips to the cinema and a winter coat and proper shoes and a whole host of other things, but to think of my husband doing without his eyesight brings a whole new aspect to all things financial.
The debate about what constitutes a living wage rumbles on and on in political circles and in the press and social media, and while everyone has an opinion on it, not many people actually see the affect that wage cuts, sick benefit cuts, healthcare cuts, food cost increases, transport cost increases, prescription rises and all the rest of it actually have on real people. My husband could go blind because of a combination of all these things and I thank God that it has been picked up at this stage because we cobbled together the opticians fees last week.
Poor finances = poor health? You betcha.