No products in the cart.

Returning to Work After Brain Injury: What to Expect & How to Prepare

the ultimate guide to returning to work after brain injury

Returning to work after brain injury can be a complicated process that will look different for everyone. But finding employment again can offer a sense of accomplishment and improve your self-esteem.

Some TBI patients will able to return to their old job, while others may need to find a new occupation. This article will guide you through the process and explain some of the obstacles you may need to overcome before returning to work.

Finally, we’ll also explain which resources are available to brain injury patients that can help make your transition back to employment smoother.

Use these links to jump to sections most relevant to you:

Obstacles to Returning to Work after Brain Injury

woman finding returning to work after brain injury hard but rewarding

Having a job with a steady income can help you feel more independent and satisfied with life. It also keeps your body and mind active, which will prevent your brain injury from getting worse. 

Sometimes, however, it will not be possible for you to return to your old job, especially if you used to work in a fast-paced, high-stress position. Some effects of brain injury that can affect a person’s ability to return to work include:

  • Cognitive problems, such as difficulties with attention, concentration, and memory
  • Weakness
  • Lack of coordination in arms and legs
  • Vision impairments
  • Fatigue

However, it’s important to recognize that these impairments are not necessarily permanent. The brain possesses a remarkable ability to repair itself after an injury, known as neuroplasticity. Through neuroplasticity, the brain can reorganize neurons, which allows undamaged areas of the brain to take over functions from damaged ones. This can enable you to recover lost abilities.

Therefore, it’s important to not despair of ever regaining the ability to return to work after brain injury. With consistent physical and occupational therapy, you can activate neuroplasticity and regain function.

Still, this process can take time, and severe brain injury survivors might never return to their full capacity from before their injury. Fortunately, there are resources to available to help adapt the work place to meet a person’s needs.

Understanding Your Employment Rights After Brain Injury

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against persons with disabilities. The law applies to companies with 15 employees or more; however, some states may have additional laws that apply to companies with fewer than 15 employees.

Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to all employees with disabilities. These accommodations can be used to enable the person to perform their work. Therefore, it’s important to know what adjustments employers can make for you before returning to work after brain injury. Some accommodations you can discuss with your boss include:

  • Working shorter hours
  • Returning to work gradually, maybe working from home at first.
  • Taking more breaks to prevent overstimulation
  • Starting with a lighter workload
  • Reassignment to a new, less stressful role

Your employer can also provide you with physical and technological aids, such as modified desks or chairs, and computer programs to help you stay on task.

Remember, your employer wants you to succeed, so do not hesitate to ask. By providing you with accommodations, they can help you improve your work performance, which will in turn benefit the company as a whole.

If you are not sure which accommodations to request, work with a vocational rehab specialist or an occupational therapist who can help you determine which adaptations will benefit you the most.

Accessing Disability Benefits After TBI

While full employment might be your ultimate goal, it’s important not to return to work too soon after a brain injury. Sometimes you might be unaware of your deficits, and that might cause you to make serious mistakes on the job. In addition, returning to work before your brain has fully healed from its injury could cause more damage and set back your recovery.

Fortunately, there are benefits available to brain injury patients that allow them to continue receiving income while they recover from their injury. You can receive these benefits either through disability insurance (SSDI) or through supplemental security income (SSI).

Traumatic brain injury patients should apply for benefits as soon as possible, as it usually takes several months to process disability claims. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), TBI patients qualify for benefits if they experience either:

A. Disorganization of motor function in two extremities, resulting in an extreme limitation in the ability to stand up from a seated position, balance while standing or walking, or use the upper extremities, persisting for at least 3 consecutive months after the injury.

OR

B. Marked limitation in physical functioning, and in one of the following areas of mental functioning, persisting for at least 3 consecutive months after the injury:

  • Understanding, remembering, or applying information
  • Interacting with others
  • Concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace
  • Adapting or managing oneself

If you do receive approval for benefits, it’s important to remember that benefits do not typically begin until 6 months after injury. In addition, benefits usually cease once the person finds employment. However, there are programs that allow exceptions.

Social Security Incentives for Returning to Work After Brain Injury

For those receiving Disability or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), you might be eligible to take part in the Ticket to Work program.

The Ticket to Work program gives brain injury patients access to career counseling, vocational rehab, and job placement and training. It also allows TBI survivors to test out the prospect of employment without fear of losing their benefits.

Ticket to Work programs are available in all 50 states. Other Social Security incentives Ticket to Work programs provide include:

  • Trial Work Period (TWP): The TWP allows brain injury patients to test their ability to work for at least 9 months. Individuals will receive full SSDI benefits as long as they report their work activity. This makes it ideal for brain injury patients just beginning to return to work.
  • Expedited Reinstatement (EXR): If a brain injury patient becomes unable to work again within 5 years after their EPE ends, they can request reinstatement of SSDI benefits without filing a new application.
  • Continuation of Medicare Coverage: After the TWP ends, Medicare coverage will continue for 93 consecutive months.

Now that you understand more about the benefits and accommodations available to help brain injury patients return to work, we can discuss what steps you should take to find employment again.

Preparing to Return to Work After Brain Injury

Vocational rehab specialists can help you get back to work after a TBI

To ensure that you are ready to return to work after brain injury, it’s critical to take part in physical and occupational therapy. These therapies can help you regain the abilities you need to thrive in the office.

In addition, it can help to practice at home some of the tasks you may need to perform. This way, you can prepare yourself for the challenges you might face at work.

Some ways you can practice at home include:

  • Work at your home computer and concentrate for as long as you will need to at work. Try playing cognitive training games or watching videos if you can’t think of anything else to do at your computer. If you can only do a few minutes at first, that’s ok.
  • Improve your physical endurance. Do some exercises and chores around the house every day until you can last at least a couple of hours without a break. Again, don’t feel bad if this is hard in the beginning, that’s why you’re practicing!
  • Do activities that involve planning, such as cooking or shopping.
  • Get up at the same time every morning. Make sure you practice getting up at the time you would typically go to work.

Doing all this every day will give you a safe space to make mistakes and discover what your needs are before starting your job.

Finding Employment Again After Brain Injury

Returning to work after brain injury represents the ultimate victory over brain injury for many people.

That’s why we wanted to create this guide to employment after TBI. We hope these tips help make the journey towards finding work again a little more manageable.

It might take you longer than others to recover the skills needed to work, but do not give up.

With enough therapy and the right accommodations, you can have a real chance to get back to doing the work you love.

Keep It Going: Download Our TBI Rehab Exercise Guides for Free

Get instant access to our TBI recovery exercise ebook with 13 pages of exercises by signing up below!

Each exercise features pictures of a licensed therapist to help guide you.

We will never sell your email address, and we never spam. That we promise.

Get Inspired with This TBI Recovery Story

Independance, motivation and hope!

“My son Sharat suffered a severe traumatic brain injury 23 years ago leaving him with Aphasia and right sided weakness from his vision,hearing to his limbs. The lockdown in June was a great challenge for him as his caregivers stopped coming, no gym workouts and no outings for a coffee.

Being his mother and primary carer I feared that this was a hotbed for depression. I scoured the net and chanced upon FlintRehab. As there was a trial period it was safe for us to risk getting it across to Auckland.

His OT checked it out and felt that it was ideal. I can honestly second this.

He enjoys working on it and now after three months can do it on his own. His left hand helps his right hand. The FitMi video explains and shows him what to do, it gives him marks and applauds him too!!

He has to use both sides of his brain. The caregivers are OT students who returned enjoy working on it with him.

In three months there motivation built up in him with a drive to use his right hand. There is definitely a slight improvement in his right hand.

This encourages him as well as the caregivers to try harder.His overall mood is upbeat. He enjoys it, so much so, that it doesn’t matter if his caregiver is away.

FitMi is a blessing.”

Sharat’s review of FitMi home therapy, 10/10/2020

5 stars

More Ways to Recover with Flint Rehab:

Download Free TBI Rehab Exercises

tbi ebook

Discover Award-Winning Neurorehab Tools