Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Dealing with Son with Sz and High Expenses

I wonder how many of you can relate to my story. My son who is 32 suffered a break down and developed SZ a few months back. What has happened since he moved back with me and my wife is that we have discovered the many expenses that have been incurred while he was suffering his breakdown when he lived alone.

He forgot to pay for his insurance premiums while he suffered and I had to work with the insurance company to reinstate him while he was hospitalized. The deductible was very expensive. I finally got him on Medicaid which has helped. The big kicker came when he received a call from a collection agency for a “chargeback” expense near $5000.00! I asked my son what happened but he could not recall. He says he got scammed. It happened in July of 2019 - the peak of illness.

I know he can’t help it but there are other expenses that he tallied up while he suffered for almost a year living by himself and being isolated.

It can be discouraging as a parent to see the endless trail that was left behind while my son lived with this sickness.

It seems like when you fell that you are catching up financially and emotionally that you get hit hard with something new. I love my son and I don’t get angry with him because I feel I am partly responsible. We will get through this. He is showing improvements - I have that to hang too.

Thanks for listening.

A couple things. First, an immediate response often is to pay these bills for your son, but this could be a bad move. Once you have paid, you lose an avenue for him to declare bankruptcy. Often people with SMI are young, without a job and with few secure assets. When they incur significant debt they become prime candidates for bankruptcy.

My father repeatedly made this mistake with my brother in multiple manic periods where he would bounce checks thinking he had unlimited funds. This was back when there was still considerable ‘float’ or lag between writing a check and it being cashed. He eventually was hospitalized and his mail was being forwarded which introduced more lag and then there were bounced check fees etc, so my father was continually depositing money in his account and things kept bouncing. My brother was incoherent while in the hospital and had only vague recollection of what he bought. Considering it was a private mental hospital he stayed in, I‘m sure it cost a fortune.

This happened more than once, but after a while he stabilized. Later while I was out of my prodrome and semi-florid with SZA, I found out that my brother who was either under or unemployed at the time was in serious credit card debt (we were both living with our parents then). He was hiding it, and I was looking for something and semi-snooping and discovered it. I told my father and eventually they got him to a lawyer and he declared bankruptcy and it went very well. The burden of his debt was causing him anxiety, my father was giving him money, but couldn’t understand where it was all going.

Bankruptcy laws are a bit different now, but generally it’s a bad idea to pay off collection agencies outright, as they can tack on fees and often old debts have already been written off for cents on the dollar by the time they get them, so it’s free money minus the expense of harassing phone calls and scary letters. Talk to a lawyer before you go to any debt consolidation agencies as well. You son’s instincts are correct, a lot of these things are scams that prey off ignorance. Good luck.

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Also, sometimes the medical charges are not required to be paid. If your loved one had healthcare insurance, you have to know what was covered and if it was properly billed to the insurance company. Often, the policy holder does not have to pay the difference (except for deductible and out of pocket). And if it was for Emergency care, a lot of insurance companies treat that care as IN network, even if the provider was out of network. You can also negotiate with the provider. I had an ambulance company that was billing $800 and I called them as soon as I got the bill for my family member and asked if they would accept $500 on the spot over the phone (which was the IN network amount that would have been covered, as I recall. The provider agreed. I am still trying to resolve a $12,000 hospital bill from October 2017 with the insurance company which SHOULD have paid the provider. The bill went to a collection agency, but I have documented in writing that I am disputing the billed amount pending my appeal to the insurance company. (I can do this on behalf of my FM because I am the legal guardian.)

Bottom line - your son is an adult and you are not financially responsible for any of his debts. Going forward, making sure he gets the medical care he needs even though it may be through Medical only because he doesn’t have the means to pay for care. No matter what they tell you, they cannot come after you personally for his debts. Is he receiving SSI? If not, I would work on getting him SSI and do auto pay for his insurance. My son ha schizoeffective disorder a double wammy. We are doing great using Humana for his costly meds. It has been awhile since he has been living with me, but he racked up debt, smashed a bunch of cars, DUI expenses etc. I believe I wrote a letter to all he owed any money to and the department wanting him to pay the DUI expenses, the letter included a statement from the doctor stating he was gravely ill and incapable of caring for himself. I hope this helps.

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@vvicin01This is a good point. You are not legally responsible for your adult child’s expenses. But what we choose to help with may be another story. However, sometimes we just have to let things go…things that we know we would or our loved one would take care of in “normal” life. If making choices about this, and if I had the resources, I would want to think about helping financially with the things that will affect my loved one’s care and hopefully improvement, for the near term and the long term.

My son had a break in 2014, the expenses came from everywhere, some will work with you, others will not. I have paid more than I can even comprehend. And it does not end, I just manage it better. My entire life has changed, my job, my goals, everything. I love my son and will do anything for him. A supportive family, good doctor and the right meds. That is what is needed . I read that on The Brain and Behavior Institute 5 years ago and it is true. Just love him no matter what, you get through it minute by minute, day by day…I also feel partly responsible. It doesn’t end but we are both moving forward, slowly, things improve, 2 steps forward and 1 step back. It has opened my eyes to a whole different world, what I think, how I act. And I work in Special Ed., but it wasn’t until I experienced all that goes with Mental Illness. I am so humble. Long suffering, faith and prayer.