My Sister and Her Husband are Old, Ill, and in Terrible Medical Debt


Dear Steve,

My sister and her husband are in their eighties and have always been poor.

He was pastor of a very small church and she doesn’t work. So he had major surgery and almost died and was in the hospital for weeks.

While he was trying to recover in rehab, she had triple heart surgery and is recovering.

Their medical bills have totally overwhelmed them and they will never be able to pay them.

Is bankruptcy an option for them?

What options do they have?



Dear Margaret,

Sadly it sounds like the classic medical debt bankruptcy situation. It is very common. Bankruptcy is biblical.

Bankruptcy is their legal right to close the door on the debt they seem unlikely to ever afford to pay.

Given your statement they have “always been poor” I would assume they don’t have any big financial assets hanging around. In that case, we need to get them in a position to stop making medical debt payments and instead focus on helping them to be safe in their days ahead.

Bankruptcy is generally my preference since it closes the door for good on the old debt and can give them some peace to move forward with the issues they have to deal with just to survive.

However, bankruptcy is not their only option. Besides paying the debt in full or working out a payment plan with the medical providers, they could contact HELPS. They are a nonprofit law firm that can help seniors and disabled folks with advice on how to push the creditors away. HELPS does a good job but your sister may still have to deal with letting debt collectors know to contact HELPS.

This is what HELPS can offer you.

One of those options is to help people deal with the feeling of not being able to pay. As they say, “A senior citizen is not a “bad person” because he or she cannot afford to repay old debt. Today, nearly half of American senior citizens live within 200 percent of the poverty line. The death of a spouse, illness or any other unexpected calamity can push through this cushion pretty quickly. What’s left is a series of unpleasant decisions. Add old debt to this mix and the choice between basic needs and debt repayment gets increasingly difficult.”

See also  Poverty Is Quicksand

HELPS services are very low cost.

The top two options here are bankruptcy and talking to HELPS. I would urge you to help your loved one to pursue both options and I think having you involved in deciding what solution works best for them, is a great comfort.

You can find a good local bankruptcy attorney and have a free discussion about what bankruptcy would mean for you. Bankruptcy is the fastest way to get a fresh start for the least amount of money.

Contact HELPS and talk with them.

Please come back and comment below to let me know what you and/or they decide to do.


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

Damon Day - Pro Debt Coach

2 thoughts on “My Sister and Her Husband are Old, Ill, and in Terrible Medical Debt”

Leave a Comment