Employment Issues - Strategies

Disclosing that you have MS: According to the National MS Society, "The decision to disclose personal medical information in the workplace is a complex one, requiring careful thought and planning. Although there may be good reasons to disclose medical information and very specific benefits to doing so, any decision you make today has immediate and long-term implications for your employment that need to be considered. So it’s important to weigh your options carefully before making a decision to disclose — keeping in mind that once information is given, it can never be taken back." Visit their on-line tool, Disclosing MS on the Job: A Tool to Help You Consider Your Options to learn more.

Having trouble at work? Your MS health care provider can help you define what reasonable job duties you can fulfill.  This may include information about physical labor such as heavy lifting or construction, hours per day you should be able to work, and any other restrictions related to your MS.  These may be temporary restrictions during the recovery from an exacerbation or more permanent restrictions related to your day-to-day functioning.

Often, making minor changes in your workplace can be very helpful.  These may include moving your desk so that you are closer to the parking lot or restroom, altering work hours to take advantage of your highest energy levels, improving your lighting or air circulation with lamps and fans, or finding ways to vary your activities during the day.

You may need to request reasonable accommodations from your employer.  A vocational counselor, occupational therapist, or other MS specialist may be able to help you determine what reasonable accommodations you need to do your job.  Contact the ADA resources above for more information to explore what you need.

Consider retraining in another job or field if MS seems destined to interfere with your work.  Local colleges and universities and many online resources as well as your state office of Vocational Rehabilitation should be able to help you decide on your next career.

If it appears that you are not able to continue to work at what the government calls the “substantial gainful activity” level, you may want to look into applying for disability retirement.  Some people have short-term or long-term disability insurance through their current employer (many of us have it and don’t even know it).  You may also be able to qualify for Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) through the Federal Government.  Social Security has a very good website at http://www.ssa.gov.  You can also contact them by phone at 1-800-772-1213.  To find out about private disability insurance that may be offered through your employer, check with your human resources department.

No matter what you decide to do with work, plan to stay as active and involved as you can.  There are hundreds of organizations that need volunteers and would be happy to work within your schedule and abilities.  Churches, libraries, cultural and arts facilities, nonprofit organizations, and hospitals are all good places to look for meaningful volunteer work.  Staying active may entail honing your skills at an important hobby or making yourself available to others who are struggling with their MS.  Your talents should not be wasted!