Vista Centre

Providing support to individuals living with the effects of Brain InjuryProviding support to individuals living with the effects of Brain Injury

When Can I Go Back to Work?

Not everyone goes back to work after a brain injury. For those who do, there are many reasons for wanting to work again. Not only is it a way to earn money, but also a chance to have social contact, structure to the day and stimulation.

Going back to work needs to be carefully timed to make sure you succeed. Your health must be stable and any lingering symptoms must be well controlled (e.g. seizures and headaches). Also, enough time must have passed after your brain injury to make sure that you have had enough time to recover.

Here are some important things to think about and resources to guide your way.

Build your skills, abilities and endurance

It is important to prepare yourself for work by maximizing your independence in daily activities such as:

  • Managing symptoms such as headaches, sleep problems, fatigue, seizures, anxiety and depression.
  • Thinking skills (for example, memory, concentration, multi-tasking, problem solving)
  • Personal care activities (grooming, dressing, toileting, bathing)
  • Maintaining personal hygiene
  • Remembering and being on time for appointments
  • Effectively managing your time and activities; organizing and taking part in leisure activities
  • Mobility, including getting around in the community
  • Transportation
  • Managing finances such as budgeting, banking and paying bills
  • Taking your medications
  • Using strategies to manage memory, thinking, fatigue, communication, emotional and physical changes
  • Planning and decision making
  • Building your physical and cognitive endurance through recreation, courses and/or volunteer work

Make sure your abilities match the requirements of the job

  • When you are confident that you can handle your daily activities, think about whether your abilities match the requirements of your previous job. Or whether a new job would be better. Will you need to learn some new skills?
  • It is usually a good idea to go back to a familiar job and employer. This is because your employer is in the best position to make changes to support your needs at work.
  • You may need to consider a different, perhaps less demanding, job or school program in order to succeed at going back to work.

Checklist for Thinking (or Rethinking) about Employment

This checklist is one tool to help you assess your readiness for employment. On its own, this checklist cannot determine if are ready to go back to work. If the timing is not right for you to be thinking about employment, then there are some recommendations listed at the end of the checklist.

Instructions: For each topic, check off one box (in Column 1, 2 or 3). Total your checkmarks for each column at the end. Review your answers with a health care professional (such as an occupational therapist, psychologist, counsellor, vocational counsellor, or your doctor). After reviewing your answers in the checklist, you and your health care professional can consider the recommendations at the end of the checklist, to help guide you in your continuing recovery and thinking (or re-thinking) about employment.

You may need assistance in completing the self-assessment checklist.

Download the checklist

When you are ready to look at going back to work, find help

  • If you have private benefits and services it is helpful to have their employment or rehabilitation specialists help you look at your options and coordinate your return to work .
  • If you do not have private benefits and services, help is available through Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) under Employment Support.

Identify work place accommodations and adaptations

Work place accommodations and adaptations need to be identified, planned for and negotiated with your employer, insurance provider or employment agency prior to returning to work. Accommodations and adaptations can make the difference between a successful or failed attempt to go back to work.

Some examples of accommodation and adaptations:

  • Developing cognitive strategies for performing specific duties of your job
  • Adapting your equipment and work station to meet your needs
  • Working a shorter day or part time
  • Having frequent rest breaks during the day
  • Making changes to your job duties
  • Planning a graduated (slow, step by step) return to work
  • Attending a work hardening program to build stamina and strength
  • Having a job coach when starting work

Public Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Service Canada - Varied Employment Programs

  • There are varied programs that offer vocational assessment and counseling, job search, funding for training, and wage subsidy for employers
  • Inquire at your local office
  • Clients can self-refer throughout the province

Education Supports

  • Students with permanent disabilities and financial need can access funding, services (e.g. note-taking, extended exam time, attendant care) and equipment
  • Meet with advisors for students with disabilities in the counseling department at public colleges and universities

Income Sources

After your brain injury, you may be eligible to receive income from the following sources

EI Sickness Benefits

  • Apply at a Service Canada Centre or online. For those who qualify, Service Canada provides EI Sickness Benefits for 15 weeks

Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)

The Ontario Disability Support Program helps people with disabilities who are in financial need pay for living expenses, like food and housing.

The program provides eligible people with disabilities with:

  • financial help

This is called Income Support and it helps people with disabilities who are in financial need pay for living expenses, like food and housing.

  • help finding a job

This is called Employment Supports and it helps people with disabilities who can and want to work prepare for and find a job.

CPP Disability Benefits

  • Supports severely impaired individuals (other financial assets are not a barrier)
  • Allows earnings of approximately $4700 and possibly more per year
  • Provides Vocational Rehab services for those who qualify for return to work
  • Application forms are available at a Service Canada Centre or on-line
  • Learn about working while collecting CPP Disability Benefits

Long Term or Short Term Disability Benefits

  • A form of income support related to a job and provided through an insurance company
  • Long-term disability (LTD) benefits often involve two years of benefits while you cannot perform your usual job, followed by an evaluation of your longer-term ability to perform any gainful occupation
  • Check with your Case Manager or Specialist about the features of your plan
  • If you become capable of returning to work, help might be available through a vocational rehab department

Work is not for me - what next?

There are many other ways to build purpose in your life. You can volunteer, take a class and get involved in other leisure interests. All of these can open doors to new opportunities, and new opportunities can take you in many exciting directions