Back to work after a Stroke

Although strokes normally affect older people, up to a quarter of all strokes actually occur in people of working age – a time when careers and families are being established. Depending on the severity of the stroke, not all stroke survivors are able to return to full-time employment.

There can be many reasons for this:

  • Forced to retire by employer
  • Unable to meet expectations
  • Unable to drive or use public transport
  • Fear of losing benefits
  • Not fit enough to work
  • No longer able to do previous job, face demotion

However, for most of the younger stroke survivors their main objective is getting back to work – not only for financial reasons but also to help to rebuild their confidence, regain their independence and even enhance their recovery. Yet not all of those stroke survivors are able to make the return. Among the ones that don’t make it back to work, many might have been able to re insert themselves, if they had been given better support and followed an adequate rehabilitation program.

Rehabilitation helps
Depending largely on the level of the impediments at the acute phase, a stroke can often lead to long disability periods for the stroke survivors, making the possibility of returning to work fade away. Yet, for many, taking the right action can make all the difference. Long term support and appropriate rehabilitation tailored to the needs of the patient, is crucial for stroke survivors aiming to return to work. The patient’s firm will to return to work, can also serve as the motivational factor needed to initiate an intensive rehabilitation process. Physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, and psychological support all work help achieve faster and more complete recovery.

Continuing disability and the patients’ ability or not, to independently care for him or herself, is obviously an important determinant of whether it is possible to get back to work. Following and intensive and well tailored rehabilitation program will minimize the likelihood of needing to cope with such a situation. On the other hand, depression is one of the major causes of work failure, and has a significant impact of its own, on work status after a stroke. However – as discussed last month – depression is a separate illness that can be treated successfully if appropriately approached.

Make your employer prepared
The attitude and willingness to help shown by the employer is of major importance and can have direct impact on whether or not a stroke survivor returns to work. It is thus very important to contact the employer as soon as possible following the stroke, to agree on reasonable and necessary adoptions to the working arrangements and conditions to make the return to work as smooth as possible. Too many stroke survivors who go back to work leave soon afterwards because their employers have not made the necessary adaptations, making it impossible for them to fit in and perform at their capacity. There are several measures that you might ask the employers to take so as to help you continue your work:

  • Allowing a phased return to work
  • Changing working hours
  • Part-time work
  • Redeployment
  • Job sharing
  • Providing help with transport to and from work
  • Arranging home working

Adaptations to a job or work environment must also be backed with appropriate training and guidance. For example, if a new tool is provided, the stroke survivor will need to receive training on how to use it.

Finally, negative employers – unwilling to make the necessary adoptions – exist, but mustn’t stop the patient. The sufferer should allow him or herself some time and look for new opportunities with employers that understand their situation and show the required flexibility. To consider a career change could also be an option, not forgetting that there is always life after work.

Sources:
Web MD Stroke News
Stroke Organization UK


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20 thoughts on “Back to work after a Stroke

  1. Recovery starts with conditioning…the sooner you’re able to restart participation of life function at the smallest scale the better you will be. After having a stroke I believ that your brain start cells start to die almost immediately without oxygen to feed it. Therefore it is very important for stroke victims to protect themselves by providing oxygen to the brain by exercise and aerobic activities. Each individual is different and if you couldn’t do certain things before a stroke you probably wont be able to do them afterwards but you can see a physician and get creative through a physician if necessary and find a way to help yourself. I suffered my stroke 30 days ago and I strongly believed that the key to recovery is faith, speedy response and medical interaction.

    • Dear Newman,
      this is entirely true: the sooner you start your rehabilitation, the more progress you are likely to make. It all starts at home and at the office, since although altered, it is possible to recover most of your habits and life before the stroke. Stroke survivors are fighters, and therefore each small step further is a big victory.

  2. Hello, my name is karen and i had a stroke in2006.it shut down my left side.Im told and am in really good shape compared to alot of stroke survivors.I had a exellent suport team.They just kept trying to raise my spirits.Im still not ???comfortable in my own skin and my mind isnt as sharp.I get down because i cant get passed wanted to be like i was before the stroke-but that will probably never be.I believe a strong suport group is also a key factor in recovery-and a never give up personality. Thanks for your ear/eyes.

    karen

    • Dear Karen,

      Thank you for sharing this with us. Indeed having a positive surrounding can really help in recovery.

      I hope things are well with you now.

    • Thank you for sharing, I had my stroke 4 months ago, my left side was affected, Im glad you have a good support team, keep pushing, dont stop excersising, that is what im doing, my sister is a therapist, I hope to go back work one day. thank you Karen

    • Hi Michael,

      Thanks for taking some time in commenting our post.

      It’s good you’re thinking of it positively. Please share with us what you do in your rehab and things that you encounter in getting back into the market. :)

  3. My CVA was 4 months ago, and through the help of some great therapists and an excellent support system, my determination and stubbornesss which apparently wasn’t afeected much, and an enduring faith (which I believe has deepened since the stroke) my recovery has been steady. I have looked hard every day to find and celebrate even the smallest victories ( stuff I couldn’t do as well or at all the day before). I intend to return to work in mid-January, and ramp up over time from part time to full time. To my fellow survivors I would say this – find those little things to celebrate and keep your hope and faith alive. As an example: Yesterday I was able to achieve a standard push-up position – support on hands/arms and toes only – and hold it for 60seconds. That gives me a baseline to start from and improve on – find and record your baselines and push past them as often as you’re capable.

  4. i had a stroke november 2009,leaving me with only being able to talk incoherently..i cannot recall having any food in my 1st 12 days in hospital,or ablutions etc..then moving to rehab and the slow process of recovery…naturally with 2 enormous enemas..with memories of learning to eat,the wheelchair,lost 15 kg,,I had my own steelworks business which closed down..sadly..finances really remains a problem..but i exercise as much as possible,the pain i have from returning ‘life’on my right side stops me days at a time..but i am victorious and will win!!GOD helping!!Nico..(i have much much more to tell!)

  5. Hello, I suffered a rare stroke callled Wallenberg Syndrome in February of 2009. I returned to work once I was able to see again in June of that year. I had a very understanding boss when I returned that allowed me to take a day off here and there for rest when needed. However, in September of 2011, I accepted an international transfer and a new position. I was asked if I thought my health would be an issue. By this time, I was able to work a good 40 to 50 hour work week without any issues. In my new role, as is typical in accounting, the work requirements are much higher causing me to usually have to work 60 hours or more per week. This is resulting in some serious fatique. I find myself stumbling out of work, having difficulty seeing, and just mentally drained and unable to function fully (at the level I was used to before the stroke) most of the time. Is it possible that this is all related to the stroke? Do I need to seriously consider doing something else where the demands are not so high? I feel indebted to this company for the support they showed through my recovery. I thought I was at a point where I could do anything, but now I am not so sure. Now that it has been over 2 years since my stroke, is this about as good as it is going to get? I just really don’t know what to do. Fatigue effects me much more than it does the average person, but I have doubts as to whether my employer will believe this or understand it as these are not the same people that I worked with (althoug, it is the same company) when I had the stroke. OK, sorry to ramble. Thank you.

    • Dear Patric. Thanks for your comment. I won’t be able to give you advice but it seems that NeuroAid might be able to help. If you live in Malaysia you can contact your local distributor and ask them your questions, please visit http://www.neuroaid.com/en/distributors.html for their contact details. Wish you the best. /Fran

  6. Hi Evryone,
    Good to read though your comments, all seem to have some relevance to me. I had a stroke in January this year following an intusive RALP prostate cancer operation, as I was already in a hospital bed, it was obviously the best place to be. I lost the use of my left side for some days and my speach went incoherent, it was like talking with a moth full of marbles.
    Following a couple of months of speech therapy I can now articulate almost to the point of pre-stroke, according to the listener, but I still feel my speech is not clear and am self concious of speaking. I sound so boring to me!!
    I am now returning to work, 2 hours per day 3 days per week, I am fortunate as I run my own busines and my business partner has held all the strings for the last 6 months and kept the business on course.
    I am full of self doubt, I am self concious and feel I have lost who I am.
    I agrre with the comments about looking for the successes each day, that is very imnportant. Concentrate on the good hings and work on the bad things, I leave taps running, and the fridge door open on a regular basis.
    I was fairly impatient before the stroke, and very immpatient now, not a good frame of mind to be in when working at recovery as patience is all, it takes time, a long time so I just have to hang in there and put my feelings of frustration to one side
    Music helps define my feelings and one song that does that perfectly is Tom Petty’s “Walls”.
    It stars “Some days are diamonds, some days are rock”. That is so true. Check it out.
    The biggest sufferer is my lovely wife, she not only had to endure watching me have the stroke, but had to sit next to me during a period of 24 hours when they did not know if I would live, so she is fairly traumtised, now she has this new person to get used to, personality change is almost inevitable, so it can be quite a strain on a relationship.
    The loss of independance is also s factor to not underestimate, relying on others all the time for the simplest of journeys takes some getting used to.
    |However I do consider myself very fortunate, I can function physically quite well, my mental abilities are still there, but just not to the same speed or level, but at least I am aware of that, I have my whole life in front of me, it may not be the one I was planning, but it is still there, it is up to me to make the most of it now.
    Good luck to you all. Apologies for spelling etc., keyboard skills suffered as well.
    Chris.

  7. I had a stroke on December 27 2011, and was in the hospital for 8 days and have not worked a day this year, 2012. I have bee off work since and my only support is myself. I get no attention because physically I look fine. I have a numb index finger and that is debatable weither it is from the stroke or not. It gives my problems typing and tasks like tieing shoe laces.

    I have short term memory problems as well.
    The best help has been my 6 year old daughter since she is too young to judge me or to understand what I went through.

    I am wondering when I can return to work. i miss my routine and my independence. as well as my ability to urn my income.
    I am trying to find a support group in the Montrael area without luck,I do not have a family doctor which makes this very difficult.

  8. Its been 4 months ,my stroke was at 6,am . I was a school bus driver. No I havent pick-up my kids . But reading some of the blogs I feel the need to let you know my stroke was on the left side in my brain . So my right side shut down.So I said (GOD) I,m not ready to give this stroke total control.I,m still not working ,still going for test and yes I,m walking with cane and a foot brace,using my right hand and arm. (BUT), I,m still along way from going back to work .I can,t drive I can,t live alone, and I hate this. I had everything I wanted at that time it hit. I was recovering from loosing my back in March 2012.My stroke was Dec.3, 2012. So I laugh and told my family that was a bad year. But with thinking you can over come with GODS help,that has me thinking I can live .I cry ,I ask why me, but we will never get that answer til we meet with GOD when that time comes so head up chin out and give it back to yourself ,with GODS help and move on don,t live yesterday, live for tomorrow.May GOD be with you thru this if you beleive in him, then he will help you.

  9. I suffered my stroke March 2012. Compared too many I survived without too many side effects. However my speech have been affected (aquired apraxia) greatly to me. Prior to my stroke I was an unemployed senior business analyst who travelled internationally. A position which required precise speech to inform clients.
    I am ready and needs to start the job hunt as my saving is drained. My concern is that a future employer will be reluctant to hire me due to my slowed speech and difficulty I have sometimes with multiple syllable words. I’ve experienced people who treat me like I am mental challenged when they hear my speech impediment. How and when do I inform my potential employer to my stroke and its residual affects on me?
    I just need to feel whole again and become a contributing member of society. Working will help me get closer to my old self.

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