As per an estimate, approximately one-third of individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD) remain active in their workplaces. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) requires employers to make rational accommodations to permit people with disabilities at their workplaces.
Depending on the nature of your work and symptoms, your PD may affect your employment. However, this does not give you an excuse to underperform and let Parkinson’s control your career. All you need is careful planning and motivation to continue doing what you are very passionate about. Here is a step-by-step guide to succeeding at the workplace, if you were recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Discuss the diagnosis with your employer
After a PD diagnosis, it is natural to wonder how your PD could impact your professional life. While the symptoms are different for everyone, many are able to continue working even 20 years after the diagnosis. You, too, can do it, especially when your employer is willing to make some adjustments for you. Talk to your human resources rep. to find out what can be done so that you can work safely and productively. Ideally, your employer must take reasonable steps to accommodate following:
- Changing your work duties by removing tasks that require fine motor skills or heavy lifting
- Moving you to the ground floor
- Changing your workstation by providing a supported chair
- Allowing you some flexibility to work from home
- Allowing you to take the time to attend medical appointments and sick leave
- Scheduling regular breaks
- Making computer adaptations
- Improving air-conditioning
Tell your co-workers
Consider having an open discussion about your diagnosis at work. Candid dialogue with your co-workers or subordinates can help dispel fears and anxiety you may have about someone noticing your symptoms at work. In fact, your courage to initiate honest dialogue can help dismiss common misconceptions about PD. Talking to people who are not aware of the reality of Parkinson’s can play a key role in educating them about PD. Remember, every work setting is different, which is why it is important that you feel comfortable with your choices (whether to stay salient or speak about your diagnosis).
Keep help at hand
Clear your workstation of clutter and unnecessary items to make navigation easier and reduce the risk for falls. Keep all tools, supplies or equipment within your reach to reduce unnecessary movement and minimize strain on muscle groups.
Explore different gadgets and software that could make working with your symptoms easier. There are many mobile apps that may ease stress at work while helping you manage your symptoms. Here, voice transcription software can also play an important role in minimizing writing or the use of a computer keyboard. Additionally, a large-button telephone will make dialing easier for you. You can use the telephone with adjustable microphone volume that can amplify a soft voice.
Take your medication on time
Maximizing the benefits of your medication is as important as using good body mechanics for lifting and carrying heavy files. Set up reminders in your cell phone to be certain that you are on time with every medicinal dose. Keep water, paper cups and straws available in your drawer so that you can prevent choking while taking medication.
Take required rest
As Parkinson’s puts physical stress on the body, find some time for rest breaks. Step away from the work station to give your body a chance to recharge. If you are employed in retail industry, you might be required to stand. Make arrangements to sit for five minutes once of every 30 minutes, to relax the muscles.
On the contrary, stand up for five minutes of every 30 minutes to stretch and move around if your job requires sitting all day long. Changing positions repeatedly also helps prevent muscle strain. Take a short nap (if your job allows that) during the lunch break for avoiding afternoon fatigue and sleepiness.
This Blog is contributed by Dr. Deepak Kr. Nain. He is a certified therapist who specializes in the field of rehabilitation. Deepak possesses a clinical expertise in prescribing the best solutions to help people with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS).