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Getting back to work after a stroke


Nearly a third of all strokes happen to people under 65 years old. These are people with jobs they rely on, careers they love, a vocation they want to get back to. In many cases it’s possible, after all half the stroke survivors under 65 eventually return to work full- or part-time. However, it’s not something to jump into feet-first.

Talk to your doctor or medical team and your workplace. Here are some thinking points.

What do you want?
What’s your end goal?
Is it to go back to work full-time, at the same position and schedule? Could you start out part-time, maybe a few hours one day a week, and build from there if all goes well? What about a less demanding position in the same company?
What’s your backup plan, if that isn’t possible?
Have you considered going back to school to learn new skills? This might be a good time to pursue your dream career. What about volunteering? That offers a wealth of human interaction and good experiences, often with a flexible schedule.

What are your needs?
A stroke can have lingering physical effects. Ask your doctor about any medical problems that may come up while you work.

On a basic level, are you strong enough to deal with the labor involved? Will a few more months of rest and healing change that picture? Pushing yourself beyond your limits may destroy your recovery progress.
What about disabilities? If you have mobility problems, will that affect your ability to do your job? If you have memory issues, has your rehab therapist given you enough tools and strategies to work around them?
Talk to a vocational therapist; they have a wealth of advice on how to return to the workforce and what assistive devices you may need to succeed.
Practical concerns: How will you get to your job? Are you prepared for the possible reactions from the people you work with or your clients? Are your manager and colleagues willing to work with you? You will need to educate them on the signs of another stroke, so they can help you if it reoccurs.

Legal Resources
Know your rights when it comes to disabilities and employment!
The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) can help stroke survivors and employers with over-the-phone advice, strategies to work around disabilities on the job, information about your legal rights, and information about other local and state agencies that can help.