Many of us who have MS try to balance our disease with what we can and can’t do in our private lives as well as our professional lives. Questions about whether we should tell our employer, how much does our employer need to know, will we be able to continue working, will we need special accommodations, are all important points to consider.
The first thing to think about when deciding to disclose is the reason you feel its time to do so. Are you missing more time from work based on your illness? Are you having trouble meeting deadlines? Are you finding it difficult to perform a certain task at work because of your illness?
A really important factor in disclosure is how we approach the topic with our employer. Often employers are more receptive to an employee who approaches them with a request showing how this accommodation might improve the employees performance, efficiency and reliability. A “here is what I can do for you with these small accommodations” instead of “what I need from you” approach works best.
There are many different accommodations that might be considered in your efforts to maintain employment. For instance, in some cases, telecommuting might be a viable option for certain circumstances. In other situations, an altered work schedule or adaptive equipment might be necessary. These types of adaptations can change our views on whether we can continue to do the jobs we do.
Sometimes the job we do needs to be reconsidered. Perhaps we no longer have the cognitive ability to perform at the same level but we feel we can still contribute to the household income. Vocational Rehabilitation is a service that provides skills training and resources to assist someone with competing for employment in a new career field. Participants do have to meet eligibility requirements for these programs but even without this service we can prepare ourselves for a possible career change by considering our abilities, our goals and our needs. A clear and defined plan is necessary to achieve success.
What about when working is no longer an option? It is a difficult decision to leave the workforce for many reasons. When faced with this decision we have to consider that we may no longer have access to insurance, we will no longer have that income, the social connections we have will lessen.
When making a decision to leave the workforce we need to do a few things first. Review our states laws governing disability and whether we meet eligibility requirements. Remember as well, that often times an initial claim is rejected requiring appeals and/or reapplying. Can we survive without the income for that long? Do we have access to Cobra coverage or do we qualify for state coverage insurance? Remember those medications cost thousands of dollars each month. Lastly, have we considered how we will handle unemployment? This can trigger a wide range of emotional responses. At one time or another we all wish we could stay home and do the things we like to do; but after a while, that can lead to feelings of frustration as we are no longer providing for the household, or making those same social connections with co-workers. Here is where getting involved in volunteer work of some type can help us contribute as an active member of society. Staying active and involved with people is an important part in staying emotionally healthy.
Remember; never make an important decision spur of the moment. Always do your research and think it through carefully. There are consequences to every action we take in life.