Rehabilitation Research & Training Center for Stroke - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Rehabilitation Research & Training Center on Enhancing the Functional and Employment Outcomes of Individuals Who Experience a Stroke

The five year grant has now ended. Below are some important recommendations on Return to Work After Stroke that were developed by the RRTC.

Stroke is a very common disorder, constituting the largest source of severe continuing disability in the United States. It affects people in diverse age groups, of both genders, and all ethnic backgrounds. Although stroke often affects those at or beyond retirement age, about one-third of stroke survivors are under age 65 years. Many stroke survivors want to return to work and be active in the community but their working environment and communities need to be able to support these objectives.

As new and better stroke treatments have become available, the number of stroke survivors living in the community has increased. Therefore, not only is there a need for further research on promising new interventions that promote health and function, but also a growing need for interventions that can be delivered in home and community settings.

In this grant, we are conducting a series of studies of rehabilitation interventions and assessments focused on improving mobility, improving employment outcomes, and increasing the stroke survivor’s ability to participate fully in their communities.

Throughout the five-year grant, we will engage students from Northwestern University’s engineering school as a means to provide intensive efforts to create and implement novel designs and to provide valuable opportunities for training students in the themes related to recovery of function and community integration.

Return to Work After Stroke 

Return to work is an important and worthy goal after stroke. Returning to work after such a life altering event can be a milestone in recovery and contribute greatly to self-esteem and life satisfaction. Although stroke often affects those at or beyond retirement age, about one-third of stroke survivors are under 65 years of age. In addition, workers are retiring later in life, due to both financial and life satisfaction reasons.

In 2012-13, the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, with support from the National Institute on Rehabilitation and Disability Related Research, conducted a survey of survivors regarding their thoughts and feelings about returning to work after their stroke. The project was led by Robert J. Hartke, Ph.D., psychologist, and Robert Trierweiler, MS, certified rehabilitation counselor. The survey had been constructed over the prior three years through in depth interviews with survivors and consultation with employers and rehabilitation professionals. From this survey we have developed recommendations for stroke survivors, families of stroke survivors, health care professionals, and employers on how to approach the process of returning to work. 

This research is supported by the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, Grant Number H133B080031.