Often perceived as a disease effecting the elderly, it is a surprising discovery to many that as many as 30 percent of strokes occur within working aged adults (<65 years). International research suggests that of these people, only half will return to work within 12 months. Successfully returning to work is an important recovery milestone, providing a sense of purpose, social connection and identity while helping to avoid financial hardship.

Australian stroke guidelines recommend that all those who have a stroke be assessed to see if they need return to work support, and receive assistance via workplace interventions, or referrals to a supported employment service. Research suggests this coordinated, individualised and multidisciplinary support is what is required to increase the chances of successfully returning to, and staying at, work after stroke.

Within Australia access to return to work support services varies considerably. In the research and health service space, there is an increasing focus on how health staff and services can best support stroke survivors return to work after their event. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the experiences of stroke survivors in rural and remote regions, and the unique barriers they face, as well as any supports.

Barriers in rural communities may include the local health service’s inability to provide RTW support as a result of limited resources and minimal staff experience in providing these services, as well as a lack of private allied health and/or RTW services residing in rural locations.

IMPACT TRIALS and collaborators are currently running a series of projects to identify and address these barriers, funded by Deakin University and the Stroke Foundation. An important component of these projects is to actively include people with lived experience. By exploring the perspectives and experiences of people who have been through the return to work journey after stroke, we hope to gain vital information that will guide services, clinicians and researchers in the development and revision of appropriate support services.

Want to be involved? Check out our projects here:
Returning to work after stroke in rural communities
Caring about return to work after a stroke
RESET (Resuming Employment after Stroke- Enhancement through Telecoordination) Advisory Network
RESET: Resuming Employment after Stroke: Enhancement through Telecoordination

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