Neurological Disorders

Canadians living with Neurological Disorders

The Public Health Agency of Canada defines a neurological disorder as a disorder or condition of the nervous system which results in a disruption in the normal functions of the body. The nervous system includes the spinal cord, brain and nerves; and the brain and spinal cord together control all movements and bodily functions.

Symptoms of a disorder of the nervous system can include:

  • Weakened muscles
  • Poor coordination
  • Loss of sensation
  • Paralysis
  • Seizures
  • Pain
  • Confusion
  • Changes in cognitive functions

In Canada, neurological conditions and injuries are major causes of disability. Symptoms may be mild to severe, and progressive or non-progressive, but in many cases, individuals who are living with a neurological disorder experience many challenges with limitations in their functioning and activity level over the long-term. Also, the likelihood and incidence of experiencing a neurological disorder increases with age.

The following are among the most common neurological conditions experienced by Canadians.

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Epilepsy
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Brain tumour
  • Traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries (neurotrauma)
  • Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Dystonia
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Spina bifida
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Migraine

A recent Government of Canada study reports that about 3.6 million Canadians suffer from a neurological condition; but this number is expected to rise significantly over the next 20 years as our population ages. However, the impact of a neurological condition goes well beyond the life and well-being of the person suffering from the disorder, particularly in terms of the strain on family members and finances.

Although neurological disorders and injuries are more common among seniors, many younger Canadians live with neurological conditions, such as brain or spinal cord injury, tumours, multiple sclerosis, dystonia and muscular dystrophy. The latter neurological conditions are often first felt when victims are in their late 20’s and 30’s.

Over half the Canadians who require continuing care, including home-care or care in a long-term care facility, are suffering with a neurological disorder. The Government of Canada study found that Canadians who are living with a neurological condition use more health care services (such as hospital stays, visits to the doctor and pharmaceuticals) than those who do not, and also require more health-care services than Canadians suffering from other chronic conditions.

The impact of neurological injuries and conditions on work productivity is substantial. Persons suffering from a neurological condition are 12 times more like to be permanently unemployed than the general population.

Of course, the type of neurological disorder and type and severity of symptoms will specifically impact the ability to perform the required tasks of a particular job. For example, persons living with a brain injury or brain tumour are more likely to suffer from mood disorders including depression, and such psychological symptoms can uniquely impact their ability to think and function effectively at work. Also, more than a third of persons who suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury experience a significant level of pain which prevents them from participating in most activities, according to the Canadian study. And, over half of Canadians with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, various dementias including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury and stroke reported that they experienced limitations in mobility.

A neurological disorder may cause an array of functional impairments which may prevent a person from functioning effectively in the work force. Impairments may impact a person’s mobility, dexterity, bladder and/or bowel function, cognitive function, sensation in the skin and joints, speech and language, behaviour, perception, emotion, and consciousness.

Neurological disorders often cause frequent or chronic pain and discomfort. Further, the incidence of moderate to severe depression is twice as high for people living with a neurological condition than those without. It is not surprising that neurological disorders negatively a person’s mental health, ability to work, ability to participate in activities, educational opportunities, finances, and quality of life. It is also not uncommon for neurological disorders to result in feelings of stigmatization.

If you have long-term disability coverage, and are living with a neurological disorder with symptoms that prevent you from working, you are entitled to receive long-term disability (LTD) benefits. Within the first two years of becoming injured or ill, your eligibility for LTD requires that you provide medical evidence showing that the symptoms of your condition prevent you from performing the required tasks of your regular job. After two years, you must provide medical documentation to show that you are unable to perform any job for which you are qualified or could be qualified for, by way of training, experience or education.

Unfortunately, legitimate claims for LTD benefits are sometimes denied by insurers. One of the most common reasons given by insurers for denial of benefits is the applicant’s failure to provide objective medical documentation from their physician that identifies how specific symptoms prevent them from performing the essential tasks of their job. At Kotak Personal Injury Law, we have successfully represented many clients whose LTD claims were denied and our extensive experience facilitates resolving your LTD insurance dispute in your favour.