01:55am Monday 14 October 2019

RCSI led study explores factors related to return to work after stroke

Pictured (l-r) is Dr Frances Horgan, School of Physiotherapy, RCSI; Dr Eithne Fitzgerald (CEO, National Disability Authority), Colm Brannigan, Research Fellow, School of Physiotherapy, RCSI) and Mary Walsh (Research Fellow/PhD student, School of Physiotherapy, RCSI).

The research led to the publication of two reports: ‘Exploring the Factors Related to Return to Work after Stroke’ and ‘Exploring the impact of fatigue on work ability of people with Rheumatic Diseases’ which examined the factors associated with a return to work after a stroke and the in-work barriers that face someone with a rheumatic disease.
Both reports emphasise the need to educate employers and colleagues about the nature of these conditions as well as the importance of communication between healthcare professionals and employers regarding the best way to assist people with these conditions.
Dr Frances Horgan, Senior Lecturer at the RCSI School of Physiotherapy, led the research team from with Dr Rose Galvin, Mary Walsh, Colm Brannigan, Irish Heart Foundation; Chris Macey, Cliona McCormack, Emma-Jane Morrissey and the National Rehabilitation Hospital; Professor Mark Delargy, Professor Jacinta Morgan, Lisa Held and Fiona Ryan.
This report was launched at the National Disability Authority (NDA) on January 21st 2016, and was funded by NDA under the Research Promotion Scheme 2014
In Ireland over 10,000 people experience a stroke each year. About one third of stroke survivors are under 65 years of age. Return to work after stroke is often perceived as a critical marker of recovery and contributes to overall well-being and life satisfaction of survivors.

Key Findings from the reports:
• The most common problems limiting ability to work were mental fatigue (84%), physical fatigue (78%) and difficulties thinking (78%).
• 82% of stroke survivors were working prior to their stroke but only 41% had resumed some work within six months after their stroke and only 32% were working fulltime one year after their stroke.
• Those who felt work was somewhat important and were younger at the time of their stroke were more likely to return to work.
• There was a significant reduction in working hours from a pre-stroke average of 46.6 hours to a post stroke average of 29 hours, and 59% reported that their household income has decreased.
• Supportive employers and work colleagues were key to facilitating a return to work.
• A gradual phased return to work was particularly important in addition to support from colleagues.
• Return to work can take several years to complete, during which stroke survivors may lose confidence in their ability to re-engage with the workforce. To maintain financial security, stroke survivors often engage with the social welfare system which is confusing to navigate and there may be a fear factor in returning to work and thereby losing benefits, which were previously relied upon.

The National Disability Authority’s Director, Siobhán Barron, welcomed this very timely research saying, “The findings indicate the practical realities for some workers and those who may be seeking to work. They will inform the work underway to implement the comprehensive employment strategy for persons with disabilities to ensure better employment opportunities and supports in work for people with disabilities. We will be sharing the research with the new Employer Helpline and Support Initiative being led by ISME, IBEC and Chambers of Commerce to provide employers with an expert peer source of advice and information on employing staff with disabilities, with a view to enhancing confidence and competence to employ, manage and retain staff with disabilities. “
Funding for both projects came from grants awarded under the National Disability Authority’s Research Promotion Scheme.

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