Medical and Disability Taxes are tough...
Being in the tax industry and specializing in complex medical and disability situations, we are used to seeing some of the same behaviour from proud individuals. People who want to show that although they may have a medical condition, they are not going to allow themselves to become a burden on their family and loved ones. We hear you; in fact, we praise your diligence and persistence to be independent and self-reliant. This does, however, pose a problem, This pride and diligence, although powerful for the ego and soul, can be problematic when we look at how this can affect your ability to thrive. This can also limit access to the social benefits put in place to offer assistance for those individuals who deal with medical conditions.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease!”…..
This is a saying I’ve heard since I was a child, who didn’t speak up when I needed help. The same premise applies to our seniors, children, families, and any individual out there who has to make twice the effort to produce a 10th of the result. This problem gets bigger and bigger the longer you go without recognizing the fact that help is out there and it is available for you. – not just you, but everyone in your position.
My grandfather, for example, is a proud man. He is hard-working, diligent, and most importantly independent. He is a retired auto-body mechanic and makes just enough money from his 2 government pensions to be able to keep a roof overhead, clothes on his back and food in his belly. He comes from a time where you didn’t buy something new when your old one broke. You didn’t hire someone to fix your car or your house. He’s always been his own best friend and now that he’s aging (75 years old), his own worst enemy. Pup, as I call him, still behaves (on his good days) as if he is a young spring 30 year old chicken. He can do that for an hour or maybe a couple, but for the next 3 days he can’t get out of bed. Instead of trying to find ways to help accommodate his loss of stamina and strength and chronic pain from all of his medical conditions, he pushes on. So much so, that anyone who sees him on a good day thinks, wow – for a 75 year old man he is in great shape. What they don’t see is that the majority of the time he is suffering. He is in constant pain in his back, hips, knees and shoulders. He has arthritis in his hands so bad that he can’t bend his fingers most of the time or grip something as simple as a mug. He has a handicap parking pass, that sits in his dash as he parks in the general spots in the parking lot , so that he can make sure someone who needs that spot can take it. If there were an award for nobility and stubbornness, well….he would win. He would accept his award during one of his twice-daily nap time slots and then enjoy it until his 7pm bedtime. Then he would suffer, in constant pain and limited ability to do anything other than get out of bed to use the bathroom, feed himself, and then make it back to bed.
There are 10’s of thousands of people out there,
just like my grandfather, who push on through to their own detriment. It’s honourable and it’s the type of drive we want to see in everyone but it needs to coincide with physical limitations. These physical limitations are important to recognize both internally and externally. If you can’t accept the fact that you have difficulties and limitations, it’s very unlikely your medical practitioner and support system will be able to get you the help you need.
There are benefits available for people like my grandfather. These benefits, like any benefits, won’t jump up and bite him in the behind. These benefits are only available if you are willing to accept help and willing to discuss the limitations and difficulties you’re facing due to your medical conditions. It’s okay to be vulnerable and talk to your medical practitioners about the problems you’re dealing with. The only way to get help with both medical treatment and financial assistance is to acknowledge your difficulties. The benefits that were brought in to effect solely to assist individuals, families, and caregivers are only helpful if we actually source them out. The unfortunate reality of this situation is that benefits won’t find you. Shockingly, they won’t come knocking on your door to solicit how much they may be able to change your life for the better. You need to find them and furthermore, even once you find them, you may need to fight in order to get them.
If you can walk a city block, maybe even 2 city blocks, but then experience shortness of breath or serious pain that requires you take a rest before you can continue, you are restricted in your walking ability. There’s nothing wrong with this, in fact, almost 35% of seniors report that they deal with chronic pain and/or limited mobility to the extent that it impacts their ability to do basic daily tasks.
With the decrease in your ability general comes the increase in your cost of living.
Example, you can no longer shovel your driveway in the winter or clean your house throughout the year. These costs can conservatively range from $100/month to $200/month. That’s an increase of $1200 – $2400 annually. For seniors on fixed income from Canada Pension and Old Age Security, this can pose a serious financial problem to the point that they likely need to look to family members for assistance with these costs. For seniors who are fortunate enough to have income over and above the poverty line, they may be able to accommodate these costs, albeit not without struggling to juggle finances and quality of life.
There are tax benefits that are available to family members or caregivers as well as the individuals who bear the brunt of these costs. These benefits require that you apply for them to obtain an approval to claim them before you can receive them. This process can be simple, if the stars align and luck is in your favour. But for the majority of individuals and families, this process can be complicated and daunting. Who claims which benefit? Which benefit produces the most benefit? How does the claim differ if it’s claimed on this individual or that family member? Are there benefits available for family members helping their senior parents? There are always factors regarding every individual situation that makes their case unique. There is no one size fits all model for how to solve this problem. The best case scenario is to buckle up and hold on tight; hopefully the CRA will be kind and administer these benefits in the most advantageous manner to the tax payer or tax payers. This is very, very unlikely; possible, but unlikely. You’re always best to be your own advocate. Find out what is available to you for help. Talk to your medical practitioners and family members about the changes to your health and how they might impact your finances. Source out what benefits you might be entitled to claim or what benefits your family might be entitled to claim.