Stroke is a major public health challenge in India, specifically with the annual stroke cases rising since 2000 and this non-communicable disease with a high burden is one of the leading causes of disability in the country. Furthermore, stroke can affect persons of various age groups but an alarming number of people are getting affected in the age group of 30 to 40 years, which makes up a considerable size of the working population.
Stroke can affect muscle strength, walking ability, balance, speech, bladder control and can lead to psychological problems and loss of independence to a certain extent. While there have been advancements in stroke care, there are still challenges in rehabilitating person with stroke hence, it is important to ensure that timely and correct treatment is provided to persons with stroke to mitigate the long-term effects and enable them to lead healthy lives.
However, it is natural for a person to face certain difficulties after a stroke. This instantly affects confidence levels when one returns to work, and often lack the courage to ask for support in performing their duties.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Shiva Kumar R, Clinical Coordinator, Senior Consultant Neurologist Epileptologist at Sakra World Hospital in Bengaluru, insisted that employees should speak up about the kind of help they require. According to him, some quick factors to keep in mind are:
1. Your commute to work and alternatives if you cannot travel to the office every day
2. The number of hours your body will allow putting in for work without straining yourself
3. Create a list of tasks that you can and cannot perform in line with your job description and discuss it with your manager
4. Proactive work reviews with your team to smoothen out any operational issues and share responsibilities or delegate tasks if need be
5. Most notably, one must have a clear communication with their manager on the effects of stroke, medication, and emotional state of mind for a mutually beneficial arrangement for everyone involved at work
He said, “On several occasions, companies are not equipped to navigate the challenges of person with stroke and provide them with the support they need. There is an acute need for guidance and back-to-work programs that foster an inclusive working environment for employees with difficulties.” He revealed that some elements in a back-to-work program that can help to create a safe workspace for people with stroke. These include:
1. Ergonomic workstations and equipment such as stand-sitting desks, among others
2. Speech recognition software to aid patients suffering from speech impairment
3. Reviewing the company’s leave policies so that an employee can take personal time off without feeling guilty or facing any financial strain
4. Flexible working hours and models, that allows employees to work from home permanently if needed
5. Most importantly, communicating and being flexible with your employee who is returning to work after a stroke
Dr Shiva Kumar R suggested, “A stroke should not hinder letting one live their life to the fullest. When employers and employees can work cohesively to chart a plan that works for everyone, it can be a major confidence booster for the person affected with stroke. That, in turn, would lead to enhanced emotional well-being and greater productivity. It is imperative that instead of viewing this issue with fear and reluctance, it is addressed with compassion and acceptance.”