There may come a time in your recovery when you consider returning to work. You may be asking yourself if you are able to do the job you used to do. Or you may be considering changing jobs or volunteering.
There are many different considerations when thinking about your abilities to do a job. An occupational therapist and vocational counsellor can work with you to assess your physical abilities, cognitive abilities, communication abilities, emotional and mental health components, as well as plan for the practical aspects of returning to work.
Planning your return to work
Once you and your healthcare team have assessed your abilities and agreed with your employer on a return to work, it is time to figure out what your return will look like.
- How many hours a week are you able to work with your current abilities and energy?
- Can you return gradually, building up hours as you are able?
- Can you work part time?
- Can you work flex hours?
- What adaptations need to happen in your workspace?
When I went back to work I put in half days. I tried to work every day but that was exhausting, so I worked until 2 or 3- remember the energy needed for the commute home.
There are national and provincial/territorial programs to support people returning to a different kind of work. For example, the Canada Pension Plan Disability Vocational Rehabilitation Program offers vocational counselling, financial support for training, and job search services to recipients of Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Benefits.
Where to get support
Occupational therapists, vocational counsellors, social workers or psychologists can help you determine if you are ready to go back to work.
They can also help adapt your workplace to your abilities. They will likely be aware of local vocational and employment programs that provide retraining and support.
Your doctor will be able to help with some of the documentation required.
The human resources department at your workplace can help with workplace adaptations. There are many local resources that help with return to work. They are listed under Employment or Vocational Counselling in community resource directories or on the internet.
Volunteer opportunities can benefit your recovery by:
- helping you maintain and improve your skills
- offering the chance to try out a new role or gain experience
- building confidence
- energizing and relaxing you
- providing networking opportunities.
You lose sense of purpose. The world is moving fast and leaves you behind. Volunteering has given me purpose and carried me past my stage of depression.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing a volunteer opportunity:
- What are my strengths and abilities?
- What skills would I bring to this volunteer role?
- Would I like to work with people or would I rather work alone?
- Am I better behind the scenes or do I want to be out in front of people?
- How much time am I willing to commit?
- How much responsibility am I ready to take on?
- What causes are important to me?
Once you know what kind of experience you want, you can search the internet for opportunities in your community. Ask friends and neighbours for ideas. Some communities have volunteer bureaus or list opportunities on social media.
Protecting your benefits
Make sure your volunteer efforts will not affect your eligibility for disability payments. Check your insurance policy to make sure.
Information in this chapter has been adapted from the Southwestern Ontario Stroke Network’s website on the "return to work” journey. For more information, go to swostroke.ca
To find useful services to help you on your stroke journey, see our services and resources listing.