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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 a delegate, giving presentations to government and other groups on living with diabetes. Karen co-founded the support group Diabetes Action Network, and produced and hosted a Rogers TV series called “80,000 & Counting” in recognition of the more than 80,000 people with diabetes in the Ottawa area where she lives.

Below, Karen shares her diabetes story and why she believes it’s important for people with type 1 diabetes to be able to claim the Disability Tax Credit.

The cost of living with diabetes

I have been living with type 1 diabetes since 1984. 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.

Daily challenges

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 that affects 300,000 Canadians and 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.

Contributing to healthy lives

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!

Author: Karen Kemp

Region: National

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