You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘DLA’ tag.
Well, it is the end of February. One sixth of the year has disappeared and it has happened pretty fast. I do know where it has gone, I have been working on my Disability Living Allowance form for most of this time, when I have been up to it.
This form has taken over my life, along with appointments with all the medical professionals involved in my care to ask them to write supportive evidence for me in support of my application and also to talk to them about what is needed (as usually knowing about my medical conditions does not mean a doctor knows about how it affects me personally, which is what the benefits people need to know).
Last time I got help from a charity as it was the first time I had applied and had little idea what was required. This did help a lot in terms of energy for filling in the form, though not the outcome. This time I have largely filled it out myself, which with my physical and mental stamina has meant it has taken me a very long time. My partner has helped me type some parts and has physically written up the form, as well as checking what I have written and suggesting things I have forgotten, and that help has been really helpful but she is so busy that I could not ask for more and frankly, I am the one who knows the most about it and how it needs to be done. She could have gained that knowledge but it just seemed above and beyond to ask her to do that on top of everything else she has on her plate.
I know that my facebook friends and others are probably sick of hearing me talk about it as I have vented a little during the process and all will be relieved to hear that it will be sent off this week! Hurray! I cannot wait to see the back of it though I know that next time I hear anything it will be a request for a medical, which last time I found VERY traumatic and lead to the denial of my claim and I had to go to appeal. The whole process took a year. It was successful in the end, but I am really not looking forward to that all over again. It really takes over your life and energies and it was a hard year for me. I have filled this form in so thoroughly and carefully in the hope that it will go through and I can avoid that year of hell this time. I am crossing everything but I know that just about everyone with ME goes to appeal. Even my CFS specialist said so, so I should not get my hopes up. I know that so many people are going through benefits processes and appeals at the moment, the whole UK system is in a mess and people are being treated so unfairly. It is really inhumane.
Anyway, two months of my available energies have been used up already and I really want to use what I have now for better and more creative things. I have several new arty books from Xmas that I want to look at for inspiration as well as projects I have been planning for months (actually years) that I want to get on with. I also have a lot of fiction/non-art books that I want to read – I love having a pile of books waiting but at the moment it seems a little too high and I keep dipping into new ones before finishing the ones I am on! I need to focus on the ones in hand and ignore the temptations of the bookshelf or I will not fully enjoy each one as I go as I will have half an eye on the next one – no way to be!
One of the best things to happen so far this year was a couple of weeks ago I went to see The Imagined Village. I have seen them before and knew it would be good, but it exceeded my expectations (except it seemed to be over far too quickly) and it was a night to remember! I always love to see Eliza Carthy live, and they are all such talented and enthusiastic performers that it is a real joy to see people doing what they evidently love. There are more concerts planned by them and other related artists to raise money for Norma Waterson (Carthy) and family who is Eliza Carthy’s Mum and who is very ill in hospital. Details here.
Other news, my sister is coming to visit me this week! I have not seen her for nearly two years and I am looking forward to some fun! Also my garden is coming back to life after all that snow in December and I am feeling a little hint of spring in the air… I hope to be able to get outside a bit more soon.
Also interesting to note that though I don’t feel dramatically better, I feel that my condition is more stable in terms of energy at the moment. I do not seem to have much variation even after I have been to an appointment (or been to a concert!). I do still get post-exertional malaise, but it is not as severe as in the past (relative to my overall function levels) and I am finding I am getting more pain instead, if anything. This change is actually welcome. (I think one of the worst things whatever level of function is the unpredictable and ever-changing nature of this illness and not knowing what is ok to do and what the day will bring). I do rest more before and after an event and I am careful in what I choose to do and cannot go out often, but I feel it is not such a big risk to go out occasionally. I don’t mind taking more painkillers occasionally for a good reason. I think my wheelchair is helping me not have such a dramatic reaction to being out, and also perhaps my Alpha Stim and Acupuncture are helping me. I am sleeping better in general and I think this has a lot to do with it. My nerve pains are also more under control with the Gabapentin dose I am on and this of course helps a lot. Anyway, it is nice to have some calm and I hope it continues like this a while, especially if it means I can do some nice things at home and pop out a bit more. I could do with some fun, and I am sure I am not the only one!
Well, i received my tribunal papers a few weeks ago, and today i have sent in my remaining evidence to the Tribunals Service. I have sent a letter from my GP and also a letter from the CFS/ME specialist, who i saw a couple of weeks ago.
The tribunal itself won’t be until the new year as they have a bit of a back log at the moment, so in one way it is nice not to have to think about it and to have plenty of time to get the evidence in etc. but at the same time i would just like it to be done with, whatever the outcome. This process began last Easter-time and it is now nearly Chistmas! I should be happy to think of all the back payment i will get, but as i doubt that i fit the narrow criteria, particularly for higher rate mobility, i don’t think i will be awarded that, however difficult my mobility problems are.
So anyway, the letters i have sent are the only really supportive evidence that i have, so let’s hope that they are detailed enough… both are quite brief so i will summarise the points made below:
I am writing in support of this patient’s appeal…
Her diagnosis is clearly CFS (ME) and there has been a steady deterioration in her symptoms since i last saw her with increasing headaches, neck pain, fatigue and marked reduction in her physical exercise capacity.
She has considerable problems on standing… and has been diagnosed with Positional Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome… gives very marked postural symptoms. This is part of autonomic dysfunction, which underlies CFS.
She is not able to undertake activities of daily living without significant help from her partner. Her physical activity is limited to 5-10 minutes maximum. She has become more significantly depressed because of her disability.
…her disability is severe and progressive and has not shown any significant improvement with previous therapeutic input along the lines suggested by the NICE guidelines…
After the letter he wrote for the insurance company i was a bit disappointed with this one as it was less detailed and specific about what i can and can’t do, and this one for DLA seems more important to me, but it is quite strongly worded so it may be ok.
The letter from my GP is not great, but it is better than the very briefly and incorrectly filled form she initially did. I had to go back and tell her is was not good enough – a bit nerve-wracking!
So now her new letter says i cannot cook a meal for myself, cannot walk more than 150m* without discomfort/rest, that my condition is severe and that i have a certain amount of energy to work with each day so any help that i get makes a big difference in my ability to manage my energy and condition.
*this was the distance used in my rejection letter as the reason i did not qualify for higher rate mobility, but it seems the actual distance they use to judge can be 30m, 50m or who knows what next week, so her saying this may work against me, as i cannot always leave the house to walk anywhere at all…
We will see how these letters affect my appeal, i hope they are detailed/strong enough and help to avoid me having to talk for ages at the appeal about the nitty gritty of what i can and can’t do as it is very difficult to be consistent when there are no definite answers with such a condition as this, and also to concentrate and talk for any length of time, especially under stress.
I will not be having any representation either… but hopefully a benefits adviser will be coming to help me prepare for it once i get the date through, which may help me feel better about it and know what to expect.
Anyway i am trying not to think about it right now and leave it til the new year when it will actually happen… i don’t think there is anything more i can do, just need to see how it goes on the day…
Yesterday i had a good appointment with my specialist and he is writing me a report which will hopefully be thorough and supportive of my DLA claim and make it worth going to the appeal tribunal… he asked to see the DWP medical report in order to criticise it and correct any incorrect assumptions, so that is looking promising.
Then, this morning the tribunal papers came through in the post, so i have another little form to send back in the next few days, if i want to continue.
I am getting quite concerned now that it is getting closer and more real, that i have not got representation. I have been reading other people’s experiences, talking to people who know about these things, and the consensus seems to be that without representation it is a nightmare and they can rip your argument/statements to shreds in seconds… i was told by Welfare Right Service when they said they could not take my case on, that the tribunal panel will go easier on me because i am representing myself, but i am not convinced. Either i meet the criteria or i don’t, but the thought of having to be coherent and consistent for 45 mins to one hour about details of my condition, what i am capable of, what i can’t do etc, particularly with a fluctuating condition as mine, fills me with horror. Particularly after the experience of the DWP medical i had, where i just felt so ill from the effort and stress of going that i could hardly walk/speak or think clearly and it was so traumatic that i spent the next 8 days largly in bed recovering… the tribunal is certainly a more stressful thing and i think i need help.
I have emailed the benefits adviser who helped me with the form to ask if there is any chance Welfare Rights will change their minds, now that i have more evidence from the specialist, and where else to find a representative if not. Of course i will have to find these for myself, but no harm in asking. I think i can ask the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, and i think you can even take a solicitor, although i would have to pay for that i imagine…
So, still lots to sort out for DLA, and no sign of it being over any time soon! It would be nice to have it done before Christmas, as it has been hanging over me for so long.
Well, it seems as though i may have “POTS” (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome). There is a good website here that explains what it is, click on the links under “POTS place” on the left hand side…
I have been taking part in a research study about CFS/ME and Orthostatic Intolerance and have been to the hospital three times in the last month where i have been monitored (heart rate, blood flow, pressure etc) while lying down for ten minutes, then standing for two minutes. It seems that when i stand, my heart beats very fast to try to deal with becoming upright, which it seems my body does not do very well. The specialist asked me if i would be prepared to see her as a patient as there a number of drugs that she can try to manage the problem (it can’t be “fixed” as it is a problem of my autonomic nervous system, as CFS/ME is as well) and maybe (maybe) make me feel a bit better… which would be nice as i have been feeling pretty awful recently and it feels as if things have been just getting gradually worse and worse over the last couple of years or more that i have been off work.
I have been having problems with dizziness and feeling lightheaded and weak, particularly when i stand up, but at other times too (sometimes when sitting still), since i was still at work, and it has been a major problem for a long time. I find it very hard to stand for any length of time, which rules out things like waiting at a bus stop (even if there is a “seat” to perch on as you are still almost standing), i can’t queue in shops and even walking in general is pretty hard. If i bring on a “funny turn” in this way, i have to get home and to bed as soon as possible as i feel so awful, just lose all power and energy. Even when i don’t feel dizzy as such, i find it very tiring and hard work, and feel generally weak and lightheaded. I find it hard (and often impossible) to go anywhere or do anything much, basically. My doctor advised me to drink isotonic drinks and eat more salt, and said she didn’t think i needed to see a specialist as although my blood pressure drops a bit when i stand, she thought it was mild… “I just think your ME is quite bad at the moment”. Hmm yes… but why, Doc?
So that is partly why i signed up for the research study, and now i am glad i did, but i also feel that i should not have had to… apparently this condition is common in people with ME, so why has it taken so long for someone to notice? Maybe as it is difficult to treat and not life threatening they don’t bother… all the same it seems it can be very debilitating and any improvement that can be made would be most welcome. I don’t like taking medication and am a little concerned about what i will be taking, and if i will take it permanently, but life has been very limited and anything that can make everyday things a bit more possible or less exhausting would be nice. I am trying not to get my hopes up, of course…
In ten years of illness, this is the first time a physical test has come back as abnormal. I wish i had had this early on so that i would have had something to wave at the people who said it was all psychological (the insurance company, in particular, i am looking forward to telling them!). Maybe i am getting ahead of myself, i have no piece of paper to wave or even appointment with the specialist as yet! But in the couple of minutes she spent with me she seemed to be speaking as if she thinks i have it. Reading about it certainly rings true, especially now that i know what my heart is doing. She asked me if i ever noticed my heart beating fast when i stand up, i said no! It is not pounding away heavily or anything, just faster, and who knows what is normal without actually focussing on it. I have noticed it, but mostly when lying down, i think just because it is quiet, maybe the pressure on my pulse of the pillow etc etc. maybe it takes a while to calm down/recover to a normal rate after lying down…
Since i got home from the hospital, i stood up against the wall and took my pulse for 15 seconds after one minute of standing: 31 beats (124 beats/min), then i took it after 5 minutes and it was still 29 beats (116), so it obviously does not just happen when i first stand, but continues for a while… i rarely can stand for much longer than that anyway! Over 120 beats per minute is tachycardic apparently, so when i initially stand it is over that, over 100 beats per minute is still seen as abnormal. Even though i knew there was something wrong, it was quite a shock to know that my heart is doing that. Now i know it is, it seems so obvious and i notice it a lot, although i am trying to ignore it!
I am a little confused about the diagnosis, as the symptoms, likely causes etc are so similar to ME, that there must be connections. Do i even have CFS/ME? I think so, as i am not sure that i have had POTS for the last ten years… it has maybe just developed over time or become bad enough to qualify as “POTS” but maybe have had issues in this department throughout the illness? Who knows. The lightheadedness and dizziness i think has never been as bad before as in the last couple of years, but has been present at times. This website speaks a bit about the connection…
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), is somewhat related to POTS, at least in terms of a similarity of many of the secondary symptoms. In Europe CFS is called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). Orthostatic intolerance, a broad title for blood pressure abnormalities such as neurally mediated hypotension (NMH) and POTS, is a common symptom of some types of CFS. Neurally mediated hypotension refers to patients who get lightheaded when standing due to a defect in their nervous system’s regulation of blood pressure. Patients do not need to develop tachycardia to qualify for a diagnosis of NMH. The Center for Disease Control now estimates that over 1,000,000. Americans have CFS. Various studies suggest that more than one 100,000. Americans have POTS. Some percentage of patients have both POTS and CFS. The Center for Disease Control has found at least four distinct forms of CFS, and that some forms of CFS cause abnormal heart rate and blood pressure issues (POTS and NMH) while others do not.
Well, who knows… i look forward to having some questions answered when i get my appointment through. I hope it is soon.
Maybe this “new evidence” will help my DLA appeal as well… fingers crossed!
I took this picture over a week ago (23rd August). I was spending time in the sunny back yard, trying to de-stress and relax. It worked a little bit. I squeezed and sniffed all my herbs (the lavendar given to me by Mr& RachelCreative, my rosemary, mints, two lemon geraniums (one is like sweet lemon sherberts, the other sharper, like lemongrass) and other geranium which has quite a strong geranium smell (even if they are all pelargoniums, strictly speaking!), and nibbled some parsely, so it was an aromatherapy session of sorts… all the DLA stuff was going through my mind, around and around…
My letter requesting the appeal has been sent today, so hopefully i will get a breather before having to think about it again. My health has been really bad the last couple of weeks, which may be partly down to the stress of it all, as well as all the time spent concentrating and preparing documents, reading guides on how to appeal etc. I am also not sure if i am fighting off a virus… my stomach has been really upset, my body clock has been misbehaving and i have been sleeping badly but having to be in bed a lot as feeling so rubbish, my heart has been beating sometimes fast and sometimes having little spasms (not painful, just odd), walking has become so hard i am struggling to leave the house and walk a few yards during the “high” (ha ha) point of the day… whatever the reason i have been feeling pretty awful and struggling to stay positive… things could be worse of course, and it is not all doom and gloom, i just hope to start perking up soon.
After several days of feeling really awful and being mostly in bed (when not trying to take the dog out and wondering, literally, if i can make it home despite being only a few hundred yards from my house) i went today to get my hair cut! I was ready to cancel yesterday (and shave my hair off as i rarely feel up to going to get it cut) but knew i only needed to be taken there and sit through it and thought i would see how i felt today. I rested and mostly lay in bed until 2pm and then felt able to give it a go 🙂
The other thing i did was i popped into Boots, which is next door to the hairdressers and got some wrapping paper to wrap my partner’s birthday and anniversary presents in – i was beginning to get a bit stressed about it as could not see when i would be well enough to get some, had left it too late to order online (knew i forgot something!) and didn’t want to ask her to get her own! They did not have a great selection but i am happy. Still have not managed to get cards for her, but think i will have to make them if i can…
I do miss being able to go shopping, but usually it doesn’t bother me hugely unless i need clothes, but it really annoys me not to be able to choose presents for people… the internet is great and helps a lot but it is nice to see what you are buying sometimes as well!
Anyway, i didn’t feel as bad as i thought in the hairdressers (kept my eyes open and chatted quite a bit -although the music was a bit sharp) and i feel a sense of achievement. Plus my hair looks one hundred per cent better than before!
If the sun would just come out so i can sit in the backyard a bit over the weekend i will be doubly happy!
(yes i am blocking the fact that i need to write my letter requesting my DLA appeal and have had not even half the energy required to engage with that task in the last week… let’s hope i have the energy to do it this week before the deadline… shame i will have to use my better moments on that odious task…)
Well, bad news is that the benefits service who could have helped me have refused to take my case on for appeal… so if i want to carry on to appeal i have to go it alone… I am not sure what they would have done for me, but they would have come with me and helped me prepare for it, and possibly “represented” me in some way. Anyway going alone (with my partner) is a bit daunting. The reason they are not taking me on is that I do not have good medical support/evidence, and as my case stands it does not look very strong, as without medical backup they (DWP) have every reason not to believe me it seems. The service have limited resources so can’t take on someone in this situation. I have an appointment with my specialist in october so i am hoping that he will be very supportive so that i have a basis on which to continue to appeal (and to challenge what has already been said about me), but i am having real second thoughts about continuing. It is stressing me out! I know that if i don’t i will always be thinking, “what if i had carried on…” but i am left doubting how strong a case i have and my chances of success after this latest development, and it is a lot to put myself through for nothing. I suppose i will just carry on until i have seen the specialist and give up if he is not overly enthusiastic/supportive/articulate but i am so sick of all this now. I could rant on and on about it but i really can’t be bothered to waste my breath today!
My application for DLA has been turned down…
It has been so much hard work. Filling in the form took 6 weeks and felt like a lot of work, i had someone to help me and even then we only got it in the day before the deadline. The first three weeks i was completely unable to even think about it or concentrate on anything like that, and just managed to write a diary for a week as supportive evidence, then the next three weeks were spent filling it in with several short meetings with my benefits adviser who wrote it all out for me. It really exhausted me especially as we pushed to get it in in time and i was not really up to working on it. I got very down as i found it completely demoralising.
Then two weeks ago i had a medical and it was a nightmare (the same week as i had to fill in my incapacity benefit form, and with a phone call on Wednesday asking me to go on Friday i then had to push on with my IB form as i know i would be unable to finish it at the weekend, as well as reading up on what to expect at the medical). I found the medical very stressful. My partner came with me thankfully, and write notes as to what was said. We had to wait half an hour (which i believe is standard for “observational purposes”), then spend a whole hour in with the doctor.
I won’t go into ALL the details but I was feeling very weak and “past it” by the time i saw the doctor, (at 2pm, and although i did lie down before we left the house I would usually have had a nap by that time, and with the extra stress of the occasion i was not feeling good) my back was hurting, i felt very light-headed and dizzy (even sitting down) and was having trouble speaking and expressing myself clearly which led to tears of frustration as the doc was so ineffectual. The doctor could not type well (2 fingers and slow) and seemed not to be able to listen and type at the same time, which meant that he asked me the same questions over and over (and over) again, constantly getting my answers wrong and even interrupted me if i responded with anything more than a yes or no answer as it seemed he could not cope with typing sentences or deal with nuanced answers, which frankly with a fluctuating condition you are going to get when you ask questions like “how far can you walk?” “Can you do x for yourself?” etc. there are not many things i can say a definite yes or no to! I felt forced into oversimplifying my answers, as i had to on the form, which makes you feel as if you are lying, but the questions are not designed for M.E… by the end of the hour I could barely stand up and made this clear (i refused to stand to do exercises and sat instead on the bench, although he then made me stand against the wall to do a sight test (did i say i can’t see?) for a minute or two…). How that medical could not have backed up what my form said i do not know…
That took a full week to get over, during which i ached literally all over, and barely made it out of the house (very short dog “walks” when essential), had head pains and generally felt as weak and as bad as i had said on my form… actually even worse, which made me not doubt myself so much (It is easy to feel guilty when i have a better day or two and i can do things i have said that i generally cannot – forgetting how bad things are 95% of the time, and i have not even been given any money yet! It is ridiculous to feel that way when i am only trying to claim something i am supposedly entitled to…). I thought, if i could do a video diary of the impact of a one hour doctor’s assessment, maybe they would get it! I slept as much as possible. I did not feel too down, just incredibly weak and drained of all energy. I did the bare minimum in terms of dog walking, personal hygiene etc… The thought of going to Scarborough for the weekend gave me something to rest for so i knew it would be worth it if i could make it.
Scarborough was great – it could not have been better – see separate post!
Then Friday i got a letter saying that i am NOT virtually unable to walk, that i CAN prepare a meal for myself etc etc. Very occasionally this is true… most of the time however it is not. Even if i do these things, the impact that having done them has on my health and my ability to manage my symptoms and how i then feel the next few days (when i would most certainly not be able to do the aforementioned things), means that i would have been much better off not having to do them. Also, been able to do something sometimes, and not knowing how much “payback” i will get is not a lot of practical use as i can’t plan to do anything as i never know when my “better” days (or is more often the case, better hour or so) will be…
Anyway i am going to appeal and hope that at the tribunal there are intelligent people who can see the limitations that I face in daily life and hopefully they will be able to see that they fit with the DLA criteria if you have half an imagination… here’s hoping… Apparently that can take months to happen so i will just have to get the correct form, send it off and then try not to think about it too much in the meantime and hope that i feel able to cope with it and the stress it will undoubtedly cause at the time.