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Successful rehabilitation and reintegration

27 Sep 2018

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By Alison Dalziel, Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant, Remploy

Every year in the UK over 100,000 people have a stroke, of which around 25 per cent are of working age. Stroke is most likely to affect people over the age of 55, and so with our working population becoming older, and imminent changes to retirement age and access to state pension, the prevalence of strokes in working age people is likely to increase. 

Stroke can be devastating. Of the 100,000 people affected every year, the mortality rate is around 40 per cent. However, improvements in awareness of stroke (the Government’s recent FAST campaign for example), early diagnosis and treatment, and access to rehabilitation have all led to an improvement in survival rates for stroke, with people not only surviving but thriving.

With better treatment and recovery, people of working age may start thinking about returning to work. Whilst treatment and rehabilitation covers activities of everyday living, including speech therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, finding the right support to return to work can be difficult and the return to work itself can be challenging.

A stroke can leave the person with a number of complex side effects. Whilst most people would be able to identify some common traits of stroke – loss of muscle strength, paralysis, speech difficulties – there are some less well known neurological effects that can create a bigger impact on the person returning to work. These include:

  • a loss of insight – where the person’s ability to be aware of their own abilities and limitations is impaired
  • difficulties with executive functioning – the ability to plan, organise, multi-task and make decisions 
  • memory issues
  • fatigue
  • depression - common in almost a third of stroke survivors. 

Common adjustments in the workplace for stroke can include ergonomic furniture, adaptations to doors and buildings for access and egress, software and technology, and different keyboards and mice. However, it is often more difficult to know about and make adjustments for the non-visible impacts of stroke such as loss of insight or executive functioning. In every case however, it is important to critically analyse the demands of the job, set realistic short-term goals and possibly reduced targets and workloads. Occasionally, if the job has too many demands, redeployment could be considered an option. A supportive line manager is often the key to the success of someone returning to work post-stroke. A line manager who is prepared to listen, ask what is needed, be flexible, and not to make assumptions can make the journey back to work much easier. A phased return to work is recommended, to help with fatigue and stamina. 

Remploy’s Workplace Adjustments Team has recognised that there are many aspects of neuro-diversity in the workplace, including the impact of stroke. We can undertake a holistic workplace assessment for an individual returning to work post-stroke. Offering advice on reasonable adjustments, guidance, support and signposting for both employees and line managers on what can be a challenging but extremely rewarding journey for both. To find out more about how Remploy can help your business protect the most important part of your business… your people, visit our website or contact us for more information.

About Alison

I have over 18 years’ experience in workplace adjustments, advising public and private sector organisations on best practice and leading teams to deliver exemplar services to clients.

In my current role, we’re responsible for the delivery of holistic workplace adjustments programmes to a client base that includes the BBC, BT and GCHQ amongst others to protect and develop their greatest assets, whilst enabling thousands of talented individuals to reach their full potential.

You may also be interested in reading our other blogs on workplace adjustments, including one on employing people with Autistic Spectrum Condition and how work based adjustments can make all the difference.

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