You're on page two of the guide 'Getting back to work after a stroke'.

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Will I be able to go back to work?

With the right care, support and advice many people do return to work. Whether you are able to return to work and how long it takes will depend on the effects of your stroke, the type of care and support you received, what work you were doing before and the amount of support your employer can give you. 

How long will I be off work?

Every stroke is different, and every recovery is different. Someone who had a small stroke could return to work within a few weeks, while others may return after months or a couple of years. There’s no set pattern.

Talk to your doctors, nurses, and therapists about what you can expect. The most important thing is to take things as they come and follow any treatment or rehabilitation therapy you have been given.

Stroke affects people in many different ways and the effects of a stroke may change over time. You should contact your GP if you experience new problems after a stroke.

Timing

It’s helpful not to rush back to work too quickly following a stroke. For many, financial or career pressures mean they want to go back full time as soon as possible. However, it’s important to do so only when you feel well enough, have received support and have a plan in place with your employer for your return.

You may get advice from professionals, your employer and your family who might all have differing opinions about your return to work after stroke.

Remember, you are the expert in your own needs so try to keep control over decisions about returning to work. Many people find that work helps with their recovery. It can give a sense of purpose and focus to your day, provided you can cope with the demands of the job. You might want to try doing some voluntary work to see if work for you at this stage of your recovery. It can help you to regain some of your confidence and independence. 

What should I tell my employer?

If possible, contact your employer yourself. Tell them that you've had a stroke, that you're taking part in rehabilitation, and that you'll contact them again. Ideally, you should specify when you'll next be in touch to discuss your return. If you need advice, your GP or occupational therapist can help you come up with a time frame
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Ask your employer for a copy of their policy on returning to work after sick leave. It is also useful to ask for a copy of the job description for your current role, or any alternative roles that you are considering. 

Make sure you keep in touch with your employer. This should help you feel less isolated and ease your worries about returning to work. Talk through your thoughts, concerns and options with someone you trust and who'll support you in making your decision to return.

Many employers will be supportive of your return to work. Some employers may lack the knowledge or experience for supporting people back to work after a stroke. 

Our guide, ‘Complete guide to stroke for employers’ could be helpful for managers and HR staff to read. 

Occasionally an employer can show a lack of understanding. Visit our page 'Your rights at work' for information about how to get help if you have difficulties.  

Tips for planning your return to work

Each time you speak to your employer, only give them the facts they need. Helpful information to give your employer could be:

  • The date of your stroke.
  • Your likely date of discharge from hospital.
  • A date that you’ll be back in touch with them to discuss how you're recovering.

It may be helpful to talk through what you intend to say to your employer with a friend, family member, or healthcare professional first. “You have to be quite proactive sometimes.” Tom, stroke survivor. 

Dealing with the effects of the stroke while you're preparing to return to work

The effects of a stroke can include:

  • Physical problems: for example, difficulty moving around or using your arms or legs.
  • Cognitive problems: these can include problems with thinking, memory and concentration.
  • Aphasia: difficulty speaking or understanding language, which can also affect reading and writing.
  • Fatigue: extreme tiredness which doesn’t get better with rest.
  • Emotional changes: for example, feeling tearful or anxious.
  • Behaviour changes: this can include increased irritability or becoming shy due to lack of confidence.

Changes to behaviour may be particularly difficult for colleagues to adjust to. If you feel able to talk about it, you could explain that this is an effect of the stroke and that you're still the same person. We have information about managing behaviour changes on our website, which you can read and share with your employer or colleagues.

Some effects of stroke aren’t obvious to others, such as fatigue or cognitive problems. We call these ‘hidden’ effects, but they can have a big impact on you. Sometimes people aren’t aware of these problems until they are back at work. 

The Stroke Association offers advice and information on the effects of stroke. Call our helpline on 0303 3033 100. 

Emotional and behaviour changes

A stroke is sudden and shocking, and affects every part of your life. It’s a lot to deal with, and everyone reacts differently.

Sometimes, when things seem difficult, anxiety and frustration can make people feel that they’re unable to cope. Worry and loss of confidence can stop people from returning to work. 

Tips for managing emotional changes at work:

  • Frequent reviews will help both you and your employer. This will allow you both to identify issues early on and put in place any changes that are needed.
  • Ask if your organization can offer any counselling or emotional support.
  • Ask your GP about emotional support and counselling, or find out about services you can refer yourself to. Our Stroke Helpline can tell you more. 

Try to get all the therapy and support you need

Following a stroke you may have support from the following health professionals:

  • Occupational therapist.
  • Speech and language therapist.
  • Physiotherapist.
  • Neuropsychologist.
  • Vocational rehabilitation. This is often delivered by a specialist occupational therapist.

The help you get will depend on the effects of the stroke and what is available where you live. If you feel you might benefit from a type of therapy but aren’t receiving it, contact your GP and ask for a referral. 

Financial support

Whether you plan to return to work or not, you should try to find out what financial support you may be entitled to. 

Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to claim benefits such as Universal Credit, which includes payments for people out of work, on a low income, or with an illness or disability. 

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is designed to help meet some of the extra costs of long-term ill-health or disability. It's not means-tested, so you can claim it while you're working. Other financial help is available, including council tax discounts and grants. 

Our page ‘Benefits and financial help after a stroke’ gives details of the financial help available. You can also contact your local Citizens Advice for individual advice.

Remember that there's no embarrassment about claiming benefits. The system is there to support people. Benefits can provide much-needed help, and relieve the burden after stroke. Some people think that benefits are always long-term, but in fact you can claim for a short time while you're recovering and not able to work.

Check with your employer what their policy is on pay during sickness absence. Some organizations offer full pay for a certain period, and others provide Statutory Sick Pay only. Statutory Sick Pay means the basic level of sick pay set by the UK Government. Some employers have insurance schemes to cover sickness. Others offer pay which may reduce over time, depending on your contract and how long you have been an employee. 

Tip: check any personal insurance policies you may have, which might pay out in the event of a serious illness or loss of earnings. 

A complete guide to stroke for employers

The Stroke Association developed 'A complete guide to stroke for employers' to help employers understand stroke, and support people returning to work following a stroke. It may be helpful to send this guide to your employer.

The guide is aimed at employers, but there may be information that’s useful for stroke survivors and their families as well. 


Find out more information about getting back to work after stroke.

 

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