Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Bike Helmets versus Brain Injuries

Yesterday I went for my six month visit to see my doctor at the Diabetes Centre. It went well - bloodwork came back fine, logbook got the nod and my blood pressure was textbook. We were done the required stuff in about five minutes, including my questions.

"Have you heard anything about the Disability Tax Credit?" asked my doctor.

"No," I replied.

"Oh good, something useful I can tell you," she replied and proceeded to explain it to me.

The disability tax credit is something that some people are eligible for...if they meet the criteria.

"Basically," she explained "you need to prove that you spend 14 hours (or more) per week doing life-sustaining therapy".

She handed me a list of things that qualify, or don't qualify, as life-sustaining therapy.

- time spent monitoring blood glucose
- time spent setting up pump or equipment (site changes, drawing up insulin into the pump etc)
- calibrating equipment
- treatment of low or high blood sugars
- insulin adjustments
- logbook maintenance
- time away from normal activities

Doesn't qualify:
- pump delivery time of insulin
- travel time
- medical appointments
- carb counting (why the hell not??)
- exercise (really??)

I have to track for two weeks and, if I can prove that I spend 14 hours per week doing life-sustaining therapy, they will sign the paperwork and I will qualify of the disability tax credit.

I will most certainly be doing that.

But it got me thinking about a conversation I had with my mother a while ago. About the amount of money I spend to stay healthy. The cost of healthy food. The cost of my pool membership and now my masters swimming classes. The cost of my 4-5 pair of running shoes and inserts per year. The amount I spend on gels and other fast-acting carbs so I have enough emergency stuff for long runs. The cost of upkeep on my bike so I can cycle and help my legs recover from long runs. The cost of massages and chiropractor appointments to keep my body in good shape so I can keep exercising. The cost of all the test strips I use (10+ a day, every day). My compression socks to keep my circulation moving.

Rough calculation of annual costs:

$100 annual bike maintenance
$600 running shoes and inserts
$600 pool membership and classes
$150 gels and fast-acting carbs
$500 for massage (after my insurance covers $500)
$50 compression socks

Total: $2000/year

That doesn't include healthy food like my protein shake powder or race entry fees which, while not necessary, keep me focused and motivate me to train. That doesn't include the cost of running clothes or bathing suits because I wear them until they disintegrate. That doesn't include the cost of vitamins, of gas to drive to my pharmacy every two weeks or to my 15+ medical appointments a year - most of which are in a different city.

Two thousand dollars a year minimum to stay healthy and active. Not to mention the time I spend exercising, preparing to exercise, recovering from exercise or cooking healthy meals.

Two thousand dollars a year to stay healthy.

Who knows, I may still get good A1C results without all the cost, time and effort. I may still have textbook blood pressure and great blood test results. I may still maintain a healthy weight and fight off diabetes complications. Or I may not.

But I'm guessing two thousand dollars a year is much cheaper than the cost of dialysis. Or hospital stays. Or amputations. Or long-term disability.

My mom and I chatted about how nice it would be if the system encouraged and supported us to maintain good health instead paying for us when we get sick.

You can either buy me the bike helmet or you can pay for the brain injury.


  1. Agree, totally.

    I have a disability tax credit and an RDSP--both are a pain to set up and maintain, but it works out to a fair amount of free money every year. I consider it payback.

  2. I thought this was really good! We work hard to be healthy (which can be very expensive), or we could do nothing and be unhealthy (which could be very expense).

    There's a really easy path if we choose to do nothing, but its a better, more exiting, more full-filling life in being active.

    Good blog!

  3. Great post, I have been thinking about the disability tax credit too since I currently pay out of pocket for my insulin pump.

  4. Love this post! I've believed for a long time that using exercise as a preventative measure will save costs for poor health farther down the road. I find this quote suits it perfectly: "Those who do not find time for exercise will have to find time for illness".

  5. Umm... You left out the cost of your test strips and insulin and pump supplies. I'm betting that they aren't cheap.

    Of course, you live in a rather progressive country, so maybe they aren't very much out of pocket. But over here in the States--even with my "gold-plated" insurance plan--I pay more than $350/year out of pocket in copays for test strips and another $350 for insulin. People who pay for everything themselves pay up to 10x more... or go without.

    And I agree: It's better to spend a bit up along the way than to spend a whole lot more for something that could have been prevented.