Commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) is a progressive disease affecting various nerve cells of the spinal cord and brain. Nerves and motor neurons housed in the spinal cord begin to deteriorate, leading to paralysis of multiple organs and eventually death. Patients diagnosed with the disease can survive for a number of years or a matter of months after diagnosis, and all who suffer will qualify for the Disability Tax Credit for ALS.
ALS Facts and Symptoms
An estimated 2000 Canadians are currently afflicted with ALS, with two or three fatalities from the disease each day. Statistics can surprise those unfamiliar with the condition, with facts stating that:
- ALS Does Not Discriminate—ALS can afflict anyone of any age, sex, ethnicity, or social standing. The primary onset is typically between ages 55 and 65, but can strike people as young as 20.
- ALS is Not Hereditary—Ninety percent of cases occur in individuals who have no family history of the disease.
- ALS Does Not Have a Time Limit—While 90 percent of patients die within five years of their diagnosis, some can live much longer or die within a few short months.
- ALS is Expensive—As the disease progresses, the patient will need a variety of treatments and adaptive technologies to support life. This drains the patient and their family economically and emotionally, which is why many patients qualify for a disability tax credit amount.
Diagnosing the condition can be costly as no definitive tests to accurately diagnose ALS are available. Physicians use a process of elimination pattern to diagnose a patient, with the following symptoms as criteria:
- Muscular weakness or fatigue in the legs or arms
- Difficulty standing, walking, or lifting as a result of muscular weakness
- Twitching and cramping of muscles in the hands and feet
- “Thick speech” and difficulty with speaking
- Shortness of breath and difficulty swallowing
Patients may experience all or some of the above symptoms, which can appear, and then stop for no reason. Those diagnosed with the disorder will eventually need round-the-clock medical care to deal with various disabilities that occur as the disorder progresses.
Disability Tax Credit for ALS and Other Support
ALS symptoms will advance to a point where the patient is unable to perform daily living tasks such as dressing and bathing, requiring wheelchair access when mobility declines, and ventilation support if breathing is affected. These life-saving treatments can be costly, which is why patients are encouraged to apply early for the Canadian Disability Credit to help pay for the care an ALS patient requires. The Disability Tax Credit for ALS will also help support families with nursing care, counseling, and eventually hospice care.
Canada offers a variety of support groups and organizations to provide assistance to ALS patients and their families:
- The ALS Society of Canada—the only national voluntary health organization dedicated only to fighting and researching ALS, they provide assistance to patients, support for families, and can assist with funding or Disability Tax Credit applications.
- The Canadian ALS Research Network (CALS)—a national alliance of clinicians and researchers who assist in providing therapies for patients with the disease. Financial assistance is available with them through the Canadian Disability Tax Credit, and they can arrange for hospice care and counseling for family members.
- ALS Society of British Columbia—not-for-profit organization providing support to patients, families, and caregivers, they provide equipment loans for life support and can assist families with applying for a disability tax credit.
If you or a loved one is showing signs of ALS, or has been diagnosed with the disease, the first step is to reach out for support. Your physician should have a list of local support groups, nursing facilities, and hospice centers that can help with applications for the Disability Tax Credit for ALS from the Canadian government, and provide assistance to patients and families throughout the course of the disease. Early treatment and diagnosis can improve quality of life and allow for time to adjust to the effects of this devastating condition.