November 20, 2017 By Karen Kemp
Live a day with type 1 diabetes

I have been living with type 1 diabetes for 33 years. I was very fortunate to have recovered from a diabetic coma, that happened when I was first diagnosed. However, my sister passed away at the age of 29 while in a coma due to her blood sugar level going too low.

What does this have to do with the disability tax credit (DTC)? Receiving the DTC helps those with type 1 diabetes afford many health-related necessities to keep them alive. There are significant challenges with diabetes, such as controlling and testing your blood glucose (sugar) levels, insulin injections, loading cartridges, infusion sets, continuous glucose monitoring (CGM), infected sites, reaching your ideal A1C target, treating hypoglycemic and hyperglycemic conditions, carbohydrate counting, logging results, daily exercise, strategic meal planning, adjusting insulin ratios, scheduling doctor appointments, managing sick days, and balancing stress and sleep.

 I would like to challenge any member of parliament to “Live a day with diabetes.” I will stand by their side as they go through the daily routine. Then I will ask them if the DTC should be cut. The tax credit helps to cover my diabetes expenses that are otherwise not covered: most extended medical plans cover insulin but don’t cover the lancet needles for testing blood sugar levels or the needles for injecting insulin.

Type 1 diabetes is an incurable chronic disease affecting 300,000 Canadians that requires injections or infusions of insulin throughout the day in order to sustain life. To determine the dose of insulin required, individuals must test their blood sugar six or more times a day. Children and adults with type 1 diabetes need the same rigorous standards of care.

People with type 1 diabetes are at constant risk of dangerously high blood sugar, which can lead to complications, or dangerously low blood sugar, which can result in a coma or death. Diabetes is the leading cause of amputations, blindness, kidney and heart disease, and other debilitating complications. The costs of managing this disease are significant and increasing. Those using insulin pumps and CGM may face out-of-pocket costs of more than $15,000 per year. Studies show that these costs can affect some people’s ability to follow their prescribed treatment protocol, which impacts their long-term health and the Canadian health-care system costs.

Many Canadians living with type 1 diabetes have long claimed the DTC under the category of life- sustaining therapy, given that intensive insulin therapy is complex and time-consuming. The credit has helped cover some of the uninsurable costs of insulin therapy. It is money well spent: countless studies have shown that people with diabetes who manage their disease more rigorously have fewer complications and cost the health-care system far less over time. We cannot allow diabetes to prevent people from living the healthy lives that they deserve!

Thirty-two years ago, and within a year of being diagnosed, Karen Kemp became a volunteer with Diabetes Canada. In 2011, she received the National Volunteer of the Year award. She became an advocate and then a delegate, giving presentations to government and other groups on living with diabetes. From 2002 to 2013, Karen facilitated Diabetes Action Network, a support group that she co-founded, and in 2013 she produced and hosted a new Rogers TV series on diabetes education, prevention and inspiration called “80,000 & Counting” in recognition of the more than 80,00 people with diabetes in the Ottawa area where she lives.

Do you have a story about living with type 1 diabetes and how the Disability Tax Credit has helped you or your family? Tell us now.

Do you have a personal story of how diabetes has touched your life or that of someone you know? Fill in our easy personal story submission form, and you and your story could appear in myDC community content. 

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