Multiple Sclerosis Ms Lifestyle Employment

For the many Americans who are affected by multiple sclerosis, issues of independence and lifestyle are essential concerns. How will I make a living? What if I can’t take care of myself? The unpredictability of the disease can cause anxiety in the early stages of the diagnosis. But multiple sclerosis, though an incurable disease, is one that can be managed with treatment and changes in lifestyle. Many people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis continue their employment and lead very productive lives.

Making the Most of Change

Fear can cause us to make rash decisions. In the wake of a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, making serious life changes, like quitting a job, is premature. See how the course of the disease goes. For many people with multiple sclerosis the symptoms come and go, but are manageable. In most situations, maintaining employment is a realistic part of managing the multiple sclerosis disability.

The Benefits of Work

Not only is it possible to remain employed with multiple sclerosis but statistics show that individuals with chronic illnesses who stay employed have a better outlook on life, suffer less depression and are less likely to develop other health issues outside of their illness. The workplace provides a social outlet offering individuals a chance to develop relationships and make friends. Many people develop a strong sense of identity based on their occupation and relationships with colleagues.

What About Stress?

Some evidence suggests that stress triggers symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Will the stress of the job trigger symptoms? If the job you have is very stressful this may well be the case. But many individuals suffer more stress from unemployment and boredom than from performing their life’s work. Consider both options when considering stress.

Managing a Multiple Sclerosis Disability

Before quitting your job or finding a new job, take time to learn about multiple sclerosis. Find the best treatments for managing your symptoms. Find out about your employer’s sick leave options, short-term disability insurance or other leave without pay policies such as the Family Medical Leave Act. Allow these benefits to help you while you learn how to live with the symptoms of multiple sclerosis. The Americans with Disabilities Act will protect your job until you can make an informed decision.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act, which became law in 1990, is the first line of defense to maintaining a job for a person with a multiple sclerosis disability. This law forbids employers from discriminating against employees who have disabilities as long as they can perform the job. Instead, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employees can ask that certain accommodations be made to help them perform their job. Accommodations such as closer parking spots, accessibility in the building and workspace, and flexible work schedules are reasonable requests that allow employees with disabilities to function within the scope of their jobs.

Rehabilitation and Retraining

Some jobs may become too difficult to perform with a multiple sclerosis disability. Jobs that involve a high degree of labor or balance may exacerbate the illness. This does not mean the end of employment. Occupational therapists and career counselors are available to help find other options for employment through retraining and rehabilitation programs.

The following organizations can provide helpful information:

National Board for Certified Counselors
Tel: 336-547-0607

American Occupational Therapy Association
Tel: 301-652-2682

JAN (Job Accommodation Network)
Tel: 1-800-526-7234

As with any chronic illness or disability, you should find a reasonable job that you can perform. Always take into consideration your symptoms and triggers when making lifestyle and employment decisions, but don’t let the disease make the ultimate decision for you. Find out what other people with multiple sclerosis are doing by joining support groups or online message boards.

Resources

Cooper, L.D.