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657 days ago
On the Job With Chronic Fatigue

657 days ago
On the Job With Chronic Fatigue

We’re almost midway through 2016, and job stress could very well be giving rise to a wealth of health problems. Contact your EWP for more information on how to combat the effects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. On the job with Chronic Fatigue. 

By Beth W. Orenstein for Everyday Health

Having chronic fatigue syndrome doesn’t necessarily mean you need to say goodbye to your paycheck. If your employer is willing to be flexible, you may be able to keep working.

People with chronic fatigue syndrome often have problems accomplishing everyday tasks. Chronic fatigue can also affect people with conditions like ankylosing spondylitis, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

“[Chronic fatigue patients] have problems with short-term memory and are unable to meet deadlines, and make mistakes because they can’t remember what someone told them a few minutes before,” says Morris Papernik, MD, a member of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Advisory Committee. “They have significant pain as well.”

 

Chronic Fatigue on the Job: Educate Your Employees

Many chronic fatigue patients who work are reluctant to discuss their illness with their employers for fear they will be discriminated against and fired, Papernik says, but it is very important for people with chronic fatigue syndrome to educate their employers about the illness and what they can and cannot do.

“Education is the best way to communicate to people who are naïve or who are somewhat cynical or non-believing about the disease,” Dr. Papernik says. Because some people believe that those with chronic fatigue syndrome should just be able to pick themselves and move on with their lives, they need to know what this condition is all about.

Papernik suggests gathering this information from your doctors, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the CFIDS Web site.

 

Americans With Disabilities Act Protections

Don’t be afraid to ask your employer for special considerations that make it possible for you to do your job. You are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

Accommodations might be:

Part-time or reduced hours. You may not be able to work eight hours a day, but perhaps you could manage five — or you may not be up to five days a week, but maybe you can still get your work done in two or three days. “We’ve had chronic fatigue syndrome patients whose bosses allow them to come in at 10 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m.,” Papernik says. Working those hours also takes the stress off commuting during peak times.

Extra breaks during the workday. “Having a number of breaks during the day will allow you to lie down, and take a power nap,” Papernik says. “It may be only for 15 minutes, but you may find yourself more productive afterward.”

Working from home. If you’re a valuable employee and technology allows, you may be able to do your job from home. Many meetings are held by conference call or via the Internet.

Should you tell your co-workers about your illness? It depends on your situation and how friendly you are at your workplace, Papernik says. If co-workers feel you receive special treatment or aren’t carrying your load but don’t know why, telling them may ease tensions. It will help if you educate your co-workers as well about chronic fatigue syndrome; show them the materials you gathered for your employer, Papernik says.

 

When to Consider Disability or Social Security Benefits

Sometimes accommodations aren’t enough and you find that you just can’t work. “You should ask yourself, ‘Am I doing anybody any good by my being here?’” Papernik says. “If the answer is ‘No,’ consider chronic fatigue disability.”

Papernik recommends that CFS patients ask for a short-term disability if they can. “See how you do with medication adjustments,” he says, “and, if necessary, then go to long-term disability. It’s much better to do that than to wait to get fired.”

While a controversial diagnosis, chronic fatigue syndrome has been recognized by Social Security as a “medically determinable impairment.” It might require persistence and a lawyer, but you can qualify for Social Security benefits. Expect to have to prove your claim with documentation.

Think about your chronic fatigue symptoms and then decide what’s best for everyone involved — you, your family, and your employer.

♦ End

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