When Can I Go Back to Work?
Not everyone goes back to work after a brain injury. For those who do, there are many reasons for wanting to work again. Not only is it a way to earn money, but also a chance to have social contact, structure to the day and stimulation.
Going back to work needs to be carefully timed to make sure you succeed. Your health must be stable and any lingering symptoms must be well controlled (e.g. seizures and headaches). Also, enough time must have passed after your brain injury to make sure that you have had enough time to recover.
Here are some important things to think about and resources to guide your way.
- Build your skills, abilities and endurance
- Make sure your abilities match the requirements of the job
- Checklist for Thinking (or Rethinking) about Employment
- When you are ready to look at going back to work, find help
- Identify work place accommodations and adaptations
- Public vocational rehab service resources
- Income sources
- Work is not for me – what next?
Managing symptoms such as headaches, sleep problems, fatigue, seizures, anxiety and depression.
Thinking skills (for example, memory, concentration, multi-tasking, problem solving)
Personal care activities (grooming, dressing, toileting, bathing)
Maintaining personal hygiene
Remembering and being on time for appointments
Effectively managing your time and activities; organizing and taking part in leisure activities
Mobility, including getting around in the community
Managing finances such as budgeting, banking and paying bills
Taking your medications
Using strategies to manage memory, thinking, fatigue, communication, emotional and physical changes
Planning and decision making
Building your physical and cognitive endurance through recreation, courses and/or volunteer work
When you are confident that you can handle your daily activities, think about whether your abilities match the requirements of your previous job. Or whether a new job would be better. Will you need to learn some new skills?
It is usually a good idea to go back to a familiar job and employer. This is because your employer is in the best position to make changes to support your needs at work.
You may need to consider a different, perhaps less demanding, job or school program in order to succeed at going back to work.
Checklist for Thinking (or Rethinking) about Employment
This checklist is one tool to help you assess your readiness for employment. On its own, this checklist cannot determine if are ready to go back to work. If the timing is not right for you to be thinking about employment, then there are some recommendations listed at the end of the checklist.
Instructions: For each topic, check off one box (in Column 1, 2 or 3). Total your checkmarks for each column at the end. Review your answers with a health care professional (such as an occupational therapist, psychologist, counsellor, vocational counsellor, or your doctor). After reviewing your answers in the checklist, you and your health care professional can consider the recommendations at the end of the checklist, to help guide you in your continuing recovery and thinking (or re-thinking) about employment.
* If you have any feedback about this checklist please send your comments to email@example.com.
Wrap-Up and Recommendations:
After you have filled in the checklist, review it with a health care professional (for example, an occupational therapist, psychologist, counsellor, vocational counsellor, or your doctor). Following are some recommendations to discuss with your health care professional:
When you are ready to look at going back to work, find help
- If you have private benefits and services (ICBC, WorkSafe BC, work place insurance company) it is helpful to have their employment or rehabilitation specialists help you look at your options and coordinate your return to work .
- If you do not have private benefits and services, help is available throughout the Province of BC from government sources.To find the closest employment agency, contact Enquiry BC at:
Vancouver/Lower Mainland: 604-660-2421
Elsewhere in BC: 1-800-663-7867
Email Address: EnquiryBC@gov.bc.ca
Identify work place accommodations and adaptations
Work place accommodations and adaptations need to be identified, planned for and negotiated with your employer, insurance provider or employment agency prior to returning to work. Accommodations and adaptations can make the difference between a successful or failed attempt to go back to work.
Some examples of accommodation and adaptations:
- Developing cognitive strategies for performing specific duties of your job
- Adapting your equipment and work station to meet your needs
- Working a shorter day or part time
- Having frequent rest breaks during the day
- Making changes to your job duties
- Planning a graduated (slow, step by step) return to work
- Attending a work hardening program to build stamina and strength
- Having a job coach when starting work
- A comprehensive government program that offers: pre-employment activities, career planning, assessment, job search, job accommodations and training supports
- Agencies include Triumph Vocational Services, Neil Squire Agency, and Open Door Group
- Clients can self-refer throughout the province
Service Canada– Varied Employment Programs
- There are varied programs that offer vocational assessment and counseling, job search, funding for training, and wage subsidy for employers
- Inquire at your local office
- Clients can self-refer throughout the province
Education Grants & Supports
- Students with permanent disabilities and financial need can access funding, services (e.g. note-taking, extended exam time, attendant care) and equipment
- Meet with advisors for students with disabilities in the counseling department at public colleges and universities
- For a list of funding options, see www.neads.ca/en/norc/funding
- For links to all BC vocational resources for all ages, including job search sites, see: www.workinfonet.bc.ca and www.workbc.ca
After your brain injury, you may be eligible to receive income from the following sources
- Apply at a Service Canada Centre or online. For those who qualify, Service Canada provides EI Sickness Benefitsfor 15 weeks
- This is a form of income assistance for persons with severe disabilities who show the financial need
- You can earn $500 extra income per month
- Provides valuable General Supplements and Health Supplements and Programs
- Apply at your local branch of the Ministry of Housing and Social Development or begin the application on line at the Self Serve Assessment and Application site
- Supports severely impaired individuals (other financial assets are not a barrier)
- Allows earnings of approximately $4700 and possibly more per year
- Provides Vocational Rehab services for those who qualify for return to work
- Application forms are available at a Service Canada Centre or on-line
- Learn about working while collecting CPP Disability Benefits
Long Term or Short Term Disability Benefits
- A form of income support related to a job and provided through an insurance company
- Long-term disability (LTD) benefits often involve two years of benefits while you cannot perform your usual job, followed by an evaluation of your longer-term ability to perform any gainful occupation
- Check with your Case Manager or Specialist about the features of your plan
- If you become capable of returning to work, help might be available through a vocational rehab department
There are many other ways to build purpose in your life. You can volunteer, take a class and get involved in other leisure interests. All or these can open doors to new opportunities, and new opportunities can take you in many exciting directions
Photo credits: Joe Houghton, Pieta House Centre for the Prevention of Suicide & Self-Harm/flickr (cc)
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