BACKGROUND: As the field of rehabilitation shifts its focus towards improving functional capacity instead of managing disability, return to work (RTW) and return to the community emerge as key goals in a person's recovery from major disabling illness such as stroke.
OBJECTIVE: To compile important factors believed to influence RTW after a stroke.
METHODS: Based on a comprehensive literature review, we clustered similar factors and organized these factors based on the International Classification of Function, Disability and Health (ICF) framework: body functions or structure, activity participation, environmental factors and personal and psychosocial factors.
RESULTS: Overall, stroke severity, as assessed by the degree of residual disability such as weakness, neurological deficit or impairments (speech, cognition, apraxia, agnosia), has been shown to be the most consistent negative predictor of RTW. Many factors such as the number of working years remaining until retirement, depression, medical history, and occupation need to be taken into consideration for stroke survivors, as they can influence RTW decision making. Stroke survivors who are flexible and realistic in their vocational goal and emotionally accept their disability appear more likely to return to work.
CONCLUSIONS: There are many barriers to employment for stroke survivors ranging from physical and cognitive impairments to psychosocial and environmental factors.