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Finding Support in the Most Unusual Places

10.05.17
It doesn’t have to be all about MS

By the Team from Employment Support Services
Elizabeth Stenhouse - Employment Support Consultant (Occupational Therapist)
Imogen Oliver - Employment Support Consultant (Occupational Therapist)
Mali Levav  - Employment Support Consultant (Occupational Therapist)
Renee O’Donnell – Senior Employment Support Consultant (Occupational Therapist)
 
When you are experiencing symptoms as a part of your MS, and trying to sustain your employment despite all that is going on, it can be difficult to imagine that anyone else has a similar experience.  However, many people in the community are affected by chronic health conditions, and although each experience is unique, often the things that are of assistance are good for many.
 
Keeping well and managing daily symptoms can be the key to doing better at work (and home and leisure).  This article looks at many things that are there to help you out – not just if you have MS.
 

WORKPLACE

There are many supports that you may not be aware of in your own workplace that are available to all employees.

  • Start by looking through your internal workplace policies on flexible working arrangements. It may be that you can use this policy to work from home, or work more flexibly.  This may be helpful for attending appointments, or to help with fatigue management.
  • Employment Assistance Programs (EAP) are offered by most large employers.  This is a program that offers you free and confidential counselling sessions to help you manage stress or other mental health related issues.  The issues don’t have to be work related -  you could even use these sessions if you have just been diagnosed and struggling to work out what MS means for you and your work life.
  • Know your leave entitlements – find out how much sick leave, annual leave or long service leave you have or enquire about purchased leave. Use these entitlements to help support you to stay working. Using your sick leave to help you to manage fatigue is okay if it is going to mean that later in the week you are more productive because of that rest. Don’t forget to have time off for enjoyment and leisure activities. Saving all your annual leave for the possibility of having a relapse may sound sensible, however you may be missing out on having fun or relaxing which is essential to physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Wellness programs – some employers offer gym memberships, exercise classes, meditation sessions, which can be an excellent way of integrating health maintenance strategies into your working week.
  • Get an ergonomic assessment – sitting correctly or moving in an ergonomically correct way not only prevents issues with injury and pain but helps many people with MS in managing their fatigue. The more efficient you are in the way you move or sit the less energy you will expend. Once again this may be something your employer offers as part of their normal OH&S processes.
  • If you require modifications to your workplace or equipment because of your disability there is government funding that can be applied for to help you and your employer.  Have a look online for Job Access - Employment Assistance Fund

 

COMMUNITY

Health and Community resources are also available for assistance, and are used by people for all sorts of reasons.  Making the most of the services that you are entitled to may be the difference when you are trying to manage work/life balance.  Have a look online for more details.

  • Mental Health Care Plan: Medicare rebates are available for a maximum of 10 sessions per calendar year of mental health services (eg: psychologist, physiatrist, GP, eligible social worker or OT). See your GP first to complete initial screening and referral. Let the receptionist know you are booking for a “mental health care plan” so they can make an extended appointment.
  • Chronic Disease management plan:  Medicare rebates available to people with a chronic or terminal medical condition and complex care needs requiring care from a multidisciplinary team. Maximum of 6 sessions with eligible health practitioners per calendar year. See your GP first to complete referral and necessary paperwork.
  • Centrelink:  Some potential assistances include:
  • Disability Support Pension:  Financial support for people with a physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that stops or limits their capacity for work (ie: cannot work more than 15 hours a week). This is means tested. Your medical practitioners will need to complete medical report and provide medical evidence to substantiate your claim.

  • Mobility Allowance:  Payment and Health Care Card for people who are working, studying or volunteering who due to illness, disability or injury cannot use public transport. Not means tested. This allowance may mean you can look at alternative travel that eases your fatigue across the working week.  Your medical practitioner will need to complete medical report section of this application.  

  • Sickness Allowance:  Payment for people aged between 22 – 65 years who temporarily can’t work or study because of illness, injury or disability. You will be required to provide medical evidence of incapacity. This is means tested. This could be an option if you have a relapse and have used all your sick and annual leave.

  • arer’s Allowance:  A payment for someone who provides daily self-care assistance (ie: dressing, showering, toilet) to someone with a disability. This could be your partner or family member.

  • Medical Cooling Concession: Health Care Card holders with a qualifying condition (including MS) are eligible for 17.5% off electricity bills over the summer months. Your GP will need to sign the application form. Form is lodged with your electricity provider. 
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS): The NDIS is a new way of providing support to people with a disability, their families and carers. It helps build skills and independence to enable participation in the community, home and employment. Contact NDIS and request an Access Form which your GP will complete. Include any other medical documentation or reports which will substantiate your application. From here, you will meet with a planner to assess and develop a plan for 1 year. The NDIS website will advise when NDIS will be rolling out in your area. You can lodge your application 6 months prior to rolling out.   
  • Council supports: Your local council may offer assistances to people with a disability such as domestic assistance, transport and personal care services for a small fee. Search your local council website for specific details for your area.
  • Phone support:
  • Lifeline (phone 13 11 14): 24 hour/7 day week crisis support and suicide prevention. 
  • Beyond Blue (phone 1300 22 4636): 24 hour/7 day week to speak to a trained mental health professional to provide information, advice and a listening ear.

 

PLAY

This really does sound like the most unusual place to get support – but it can be easy to forget how beneficial play is.

We acknowledge that play is crucial for children’s physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. As we grow up, play is perceived as a ‘waste of time’ especially when we are required to juggle between work, home and health commitments. However, according to Dr Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and the founder of The National Institute of Play - play is no less important in adulthood than for children. Research shows that play can improve brain function, relieve stress, boost creativity and improve our relationships with other people. As a contrast to our organised and goal-oriented routines with focus on outcomes – play, which involves engagement in unstructured, flexible, purposeless and enjoyable activities, is like a breath of fresh air.

So how can we incorporate play in our daily lives?

  • We can play with our young ones in the family or with our pets; playing outdoors is a wonderful physical activity which is also good for absorbing Vitamin D.
  • Some people enjoy arts and crafts and you may be able to find a nearby centre or cafe that runs creative sessions (eg ceramic painting by candlelight), or you can do things at home – for example, there is play dough for grownups.
  • Adult coloring books have become very popular to increase relaxation and improve mindfulness.
  • Strategy games, chess, puzzles, scrabble and trivia challenge our thinking, planning and memory.
  • Studies on some computerised brain training games show that regular play improves some brain functions.
  • Telling jokes and sharing funny stories deepen our connections with the people around us; Laughter is the best medicine and there are laughter yoga classes and laughter clubs in various locations in Australia.

These networks and activities all provide support for you in managing your MS, and helping you to stay at work despite your symptoms.  You may be surprised that others are having a similar experience, and learning about the supports available outside of your MS networks might not only help you – but someone else that you know as well.
 

The MS Employment Support Service (ESS) is a specialist Disability Employment Service available for people affected by MS in the Melbourne and Sydney metropolitan regions, and the Geelong/Bellarine region of Victoria.  The MS ESS is a team of Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists that work with clients in managing their symptoms at work, and maintaining their capacity for work.  If you are experiencing MS symptoms that are making it difficult to do your work, and want further details about our service, phone us on 1800 042 138.


It doesn’t have to be all about MS

By the Team from Employment Support Services
Elizabeth Stenhouse - Employment Support Consultant (Occupational Therapist)
Imogen Oliver - Employment Support Consultant (Occupational Therapist)
Mali Levav  - Employment Support Consultant (Occupational Therapist)
Renee O’Donnell – Senior Employment Support Consultant (Occupational Therapist)

When you are experiencing symptoms as a part of your MS, and trying to sustain your employment despite all that is going on, it can be difficult to imagine that anyone else has a similar experience.  However, many people in the community are affected by chronic health conditions, and although each experience is unique, often the things that are of assistance are good for many.

Keeping well and managing daily symptoms can be the key to doing better at work (and home and leisure).  This article looks at many things that are there to help you out – not just if you have MS.

WORKPLACE
There are many supports that you may not be aware of in your own workplace that are available to all employees.

  • Start by looking through your internal workplace policies on flexible working arrangements. It may be that you can use this policy to work from home, or work more flexibly.  This may be helpful for attending appointments, or to help with fatigue management.
  • Employment Assistance Programs (EAP) are offered by most large employers.  This is a program that offers you free and confidential counselling sessions to help you manage stress or other mental health related issues.  The issues don’t have to be work related -  you could even use these sessions if you have just been diagnosed and struggling to work out what MS means for you and your work life.
  • Know your leave entitlements – find out how much sick leave, annual leave or long service leave you have or enquire about purchased leave. Use these entitlements to help support you to stay working. Using your sick leave to help you to manage fatigue is okay if it is going to mean that later in the week you are more productive because of that rest. Don’t forget to have time off for enjoyment and leisure activities. Saving all your annual leave for the possibility of having a relapse may sound sensible, however you may be missing out on having fun or relaxing which is essential to physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Wellness programs – some employers offer gym memberships, exercise classes, meditation sessions, which can be an excellent way of integrating health maintenance strategies into your working week.
  • Get an ergonomic assessment – sitting correctly or moving in an ergonomically correct way not only prevents issues with injury and pain but helps many people with MS in managing their fatigue. The more efficient you are in the way you move or sit the less energy you will expend. Once again this may be something your employer offers as part of their normal OH&S processes.
  • If you require modifications to your workplace or equipment because of your disability there is government funding that can be applied for to help you and your employer.  Have a look online for Job Access - Employment Assistance Fund

COMMUNITY
Health and Community resources are also available for assistance, and are used by people for all sorts of reasons.  Making the most of the services that you are entitled to may be the difference when you are trying to manage work/life balance.  Have a look online for more details.

  • Mental Health Care Plan: Medicare rebates are available for a maximum of 10 sessions per calendar year of mental health services (eg: psychologist, physiatrist, GP, eligible social worker or OT). See your GP first to complete initial screening and referral. Let the receptionist know you are booking for a “mental health care plan” so they can make an extended appointment.-          Chronic Disease management plan:  Medicare rebates available to people with a chronic or terminal medical condition and complex care needs requiring care from a multidisciplinary team. Maximum of 6 sessions with eligible health practitioners per calendar year. See your GP first to complete referral and necessary paperwork.
  • Centrelink:  Some potential assistances include:
    • Disability Support Pension:  Financial support for people with a physical, intellectual or psychiatric condition that stops or limits their capacity for work (ie: cannot work more than 15 hours a week). This is means tested. Your medical practitioners will need to complete medical report and provide medical evidence to substantiate your claim.
    • Mobility Allowance:  Payment and Health Care Card for people who are working, studying or volunteering who due to illness, disability or injury cannot use public transport. Not means tested. This allowance may mean you can look at alternative travel that eases your fatigue across the working week.  Your medical practitioner will need to complete medical report section of this application.  
    • Sickness Allowance:  Payment for people aged between 22 – 65 years who temporarily can’t work or study because of illness, injury or disability. You will be required to provide medical evidence of incapacity. This is means tested. This could be an option if you have a relapse and have used all your sick and annual leave.
    •  Carer’s Allowance:  A payment for someone who provides daily self-care assistance (ie: dressing, showering, toilet) to someone with a disability. This could be your partner or family member.
  • Medical Cooling Concession: Health Care Card holders with a qualifying condition (including MS) are eligible for 17.5% off electricity bills over the summer months. Your GP will need to sign the application form. Form is lodged with your electricity provider.
  • National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS): The NDIS is a new way of providing support to people with a disability, their families and carers. It helps build skills and independence to enable participation in the community, home and employment. Contact NDIS and request an Access Form which your GP will complete. Include any other medical documentation or reports which will substantiate your application. From here, you will meet with a planner to assess and develop a plan for 1 year. The NDIS website will advise when NDIS will be rolling out in your area. You can lodge your application 6 months prior to rolling out.   
  • Council supports: Your local council may offer assistances to people with a disability such as domestic assistance, transport and personal care services for a small fee. Search your local council website for specific details for your area.
  • Phone support:
    • Lifeline (phone 13 11 14): 24 hour/7 day week crisis support and suicide prevention.
    • Beyond Blue (phone 1300 22 4636): 24 hour/7 day week to speak to a trained mental health professional to provide information, advice and a listening ear.


PLAY
This really does sound like the most unusual place to get support – but it can be easy to forget how beneficial play is.
We acknowledge that play is crucial for children’s physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. As we grow up, play is perceived as a ‘waste of time’ especially when we are required to juggle between work, home and health commitments. However, according to Dr Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and the founder of The National Institute of Play - play is no less important in adulthood than for children. Research shows that play can improve brain function, relieve stress, boost creativity and improve our relationships with other people. As a contrast to our organised and goal-oriented routines with focus on outcomes – play, which involves engagement in unstructured, flexible, purposeless and enjoyable activities, is like a breath of fresh air.
So how can we incorporate play in our daily lives?

  • We can play with our young ones in the family or with our pets; playing outdoors is a wonderful physical activity which is also good for absorbing Vitamin D.
  • Some people enjoy arts and crafts and you may be able to find a nearby centre or cafe that runs creative sessions (eg ceramic painting by candlelight), or you can do things at home – for example, there is play dough for grownups.
  • Adult coloring books have become very popular to increase relaxation and improve mindfulness.
  • Strategy games, chess, puzzles, scrabble and trivia challenge our thinking, planning and memory.
  • Studies on some computerised brain training games show that regular play improves some brain functions.
  • Telling jokes and sharing funny stories deepen our connections with the people around us; Laughter is the best medicine and there are laughter yoga classes and laughter clubs in various locations in Australia.

These networks and activities all provide support for you in managing your MS, and helping you to stay at work despite your symptoms.  You may be surprised that others are having a similar experience, and learning about the supports available outside of your MS networks might not only help you – but someone else that you know as well.


The MS Employment Support Service (ESS) is a specialist Disability Employment Service available for people affected by MS in the Melbourne and Sydney metropolitan regions, and the Geelong/Bellarine region of Victoria.  The MS ESS is a team of Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists that work with clients in managing their symptoms at work, and maintaining their capacity for work.  If you are experiencing MS symptoms that are making it difficult to do your work, and want further details about our service, phone us on 1800 042 138.