Arthritis is the leading cause of long term disability and deformity in Canada. By 2016, an estimated 6 million or more Canadians will be affected by this degenerative disease. It often goes undiagnosed until the disease has progressed to a significant extent. While it can be treated, much damage to the structures of the affected joints will have already taken place and cannot be reversed.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s immune system develops antibodies that attack the synovial fluid in joints and can also affect internal organs. About 1 in every 100 Canadians has some rheumatoid arthritis. It is most common in women, and generally appears between the ages of 35 and 50. Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis occurs in 1 of every 1000 Canadian children. It is somewhat different from adult rheumatoid arthritis, but shares the basic symptoms of joint pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Rheumatoid arthritis can become very debilitating. As the cartilage in the affected joints is broken down, the bones are no longer protected from rubbing together. Not only does that make the joint even more painful, it damages the bone so that the joint no longer works as well.
The major symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are joint pain, swelling, and stiffness, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity. Joints will also feel warm from the inflammation. Most often, both sides of the body are affected equally. There may also be fatigue, weight loss, and depression as the disease affects the ability to maintain a normal lifestyle.
As mobility becomes more difficult, those with rheumatoid arthritis often are faced with needing help to perform tasks that used to be simple, such as buttoning clothing and opening jars. The hands may become so crippled that using eating utensils or holding a pen to write is difficult. They may no longer be able to do their jobs and face the embarrassment of having to resign or be fired.
It is common for a person to feel frustrated and even angry when the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis lead to a loss of independence and the inability to participate in once loved activities. Depression frequently develops. There is also the financial impact of doctor’s bills, medications and other treatments, specialized equipment such as raised toilet seats, and loss of income.
To qualify for the Disability Tax Credit, the rheumatoid arthritis must have been present for, or expected to last for, at least one year. You must have a significant impairment in two or more daily life activities, as well as a marked impairment in one such ability. If you do not have any taxable income, the credit can be taken by a family member who supports you and is also a Canadian citizen.
The required paperwork may present some difficulty to complete accurately and completely. Even people who are seriously impaired by rheumatoid arthritis are sometimes declined simply because they have made some mistake in the filing. There are professionals who have a lot of experience with the Disability Tax Credit process and can prepare the filing for you.