The rate of stroke in younger people in Ireland is rising rapidly, with people of working age now accounting for more than one in four of some 8,000 stroke cases every year. If you have been affected by stroke at a younger age, our supports can help you live life to the fullest.
A helping hand: What is peer support?
Experiencing a heart diagnosis or stroke can feel isolating – it can be difficult to talk about how you feel or the symptoms you may be living with. This is where peer support comes in. Peer support involves bringing people with a similar lived experience together to share knowledge, offer support and create a safe and understanding environment in which you can recover or learn self-management skills.
Peer support can come in many different forms. It can be a formal experience delivered by trained staff in a healthcare setting, or it can be informal. It can be include face-to-face meetings, phone calls, online forums, patient groups or 1:1 support and take place on a weekly, monthly or ongoing basis.
More people are recognising the positive impact of peer support in improving a person’s experience and health outcomes. Peer support has been shown to empower people and allow them to find their voice when speaking about their experiences. It offers companionship and friendship, can boost confidence and self-esteem and reduce feelings of isolation. Most importantly, it gives people a sense of belonging and mutual understanding, and allows them to learn new skills and strategies that help with their recovery or help them manage their condition.
Peer support is at the heart of the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) and we have a variety of supports to empower, assist and connect people. If you’re feeling nervous about getting involved with peer support, a great place to start is our Let’s Talk telephone service.
It’s good to talk: Our Let’s Talk peer telephone service
Our Let’s Talk telephone service is all about connection. Made up of volunteers who have lived experience of a heart diagnosis or stroke or experience caring for someone living with cardiovascular disease, our Let’s Talk service offers you an understanding and friendly voice on the other end of the line.
Our volunteers have been trained and are fully supported by our Let’s Talk programme lead. For this service, we try to match people with similar experiences so both volunteers and members get benefit from their calls together.
From social chats to sharing experiences and connecting callers to other information and support services available through the IHF, our telephone service is a great way to speak with others who know and understand what it can be like to experience a heart event or stroke, or live with cardiovascular disease.
If you’d like to use our Let’s Talk telephone service, call our Nurse Support Line on 01 688 5001. They’ll be happy to refer you to the Let’s Talk team.
We’re always looking for volunteers who would like to share their experience and time with others. If you’re interested in getting involved, email IHFvolunteer@irishheart.ie or see our volunteering information.
Returning to work after having a stroke is a major goal for many stroke survivors of working age. Never mind the financial benefits of working, having a job provides a sense of achievement, improves self-esteem, and provides independence. Many might feel lost without the routine and structure that a work schedule provides, finding the days in recovery long and lonesome. Planning your return to work can help make this transition easier and more successful.
When to return to work
There is no correct time that you should return to work after a stroke. It is personal to your own recovery and the impact of your stroke, and how this will impact you at work. This includes physical limitations, cognitive weaknesses ( i.e. concentration, memory, processing and organisation), fatigue, and sensory and communication issues. Some people may return within weeks of having a stroke, while for others it may take months or years.
Talk with your doctor and rehabilitation team about the return to work process. They may recommend changes to the hours you work and create a plan for a phased return. They can also advise adaptations or specialized equipment available that might be useful for you.
Speak with your employer to tell them you have had a stroke and you are taking time for rehabilitation. Get an understanding of your employer’s policies on returning to work after sick leave and make regular contact with them to keep them up to date on your recovery. When you do begin to think about the process of returning to work create a plan with your employer of how you will return, keeping your recovery at the centre of this plan. Keep this conversation open with your employer so that you can always change and alter this plan as you move through your recovery.
Things to take into consideration
When deciding if you are ready to return to work there are a few points to consider. If you are still attending a high number of medical appointments, you may not have the time to dedicate to working just yet. Stroke recovery can cause a high level of psychological distress which might impact your ability to concentrate on work tasks, it is important to think about your mental well-being as well as your physical when returning to work. Remember your stroke recovery is a journey!
A good indicator if you are unsure if you are ready to return to work is to think about how you are able to cope and handle your normal day-to-day life without work, i.e. how does your fatigue control your day or how do you manage cognitive tasks? Once your condition is relatively stable this is an ideal time to get back to work.
Managing being back at work
The problem doesn’t go away once you have returned to work. Juggling work, home, family, social life and your recovery can be hard.
A phased return-to-work approach is common to ease into working life and managing your recovery. This may consist of returning a few mornings per week and gradually building it up to full-time over the course of a number of months to a year. Working reduced hours and allowing yourself a day off during the week to recuperate may allow you to maintain your recovery goals, as you can schedule time to rest for those struggling with fatigue or fit in some exercise to keep active.
Once you have returned to your workplace and are noticeably ‘ok’ or ‘back to normal’ employers can quickly forget those hidden symptoms and impacts you are suffering from. It is important to maintain clear communication about your recovery and how it impacts your work. Keep that conversation open with your line manager by scheduling weekly/monthly meetings to catch up about how you are finding being back to work post-stroke. Continue to keep them up to date on your recovery and how the workload is working with your scheduled hours.
Changing careers post-stroke
Due to the impact of your stroke, you might not be able to return to your previous career or job role. There are many other roles out there that your valuable transferable skills will be just as appropriate for. Retraining or returning to college is also an option, to be able to work in an area most appropriate to your interests. Remember it’s never too late to start something new!
You might even consider volunteering to gain new experience or fill your time in a different way. Volunteering can be a flexible opportunity that you can fit in around your own schedule.
This video was taken by Clara Brendan a careers counsellor. She talks about the difficulties of returning to work. She also highlights the IHF Vocational Return to Work short course and what is covered to support you in returning to work. We run this course several times throughout the year. Speak with your coordinator for more information on the upcoming course date.
Having a stroke at any age can be devastating but having a stroke under the age of 65 brings its own set of unique challenges.
Why should I join the Irish Heart Foundation’s Young Stroke Survivor Network?
Being part of our Young Stroke Survivor Network gives you a chance to meet other young stroke survivors who have had a similar experience to you and understand the challenges a stroke can bring. Being able to meet and chat with others and learn from their knowledge and experience is something that so many of the group have found helpful. You will also have access to information and resources that you can use to help improve your quality of life after a stroke.
What exactly will I get from the Young Stroke Survivor Network?
Relevant learning opportunities
Throughout the year, we host a range of courses and information sessions for younger stroke survivors that can help you readjust to life after stroke. We choose topics based on the needs of our network and have covered areas such as fatigue, returning to work, mindfulness and many more.
Stroke Connect Services
Our community-based telephone support services offer practical and emotional support after a stroke. This free service assesses your needs and provides up to eight weeks of phone support to help you continue your recovery at home.
To join our Young Stroke Survivor Network, please fill in this form.
To find out more about joining our groups, please contact Helena at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 086 130 0237.
Our Life after Stroke Facebook support group is a strong community of stroke survivors of all ages who offer each other advice, information and support in a private environment. Group activities include free online exercise classes, information talks, health advice and peer-to-peer support. Sign up now.
Call our Nurse Support Line with any questions or concerns you may have about managing life after stroke. The Nurse Support Line is available Monday to Friday from 9am to 1pm on 01 668 5001.
Tallaght University Hospital has launched their new booklet ‘CHATS: Children Helped by Adults to Talk about Stroke’ to help families navigate the traumatic event.Learn More
Our Stroke Connect Service (SCS) is a weekly support service for stroke survivors who need practical and emotional support.Learn More
Hear from people affected by stroke and how it has impacted their lives.Learn More
In the event of a stroke, act F.A.S.T.Learn More