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.
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
- 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.