According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, "Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves ... The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary from one person to another." Because of the unpredictability of MS, it is difficult to know which jobs will be the best to work while coping with the disease; however, being aware of how your body is dealing with the effects of MS will help you decide how long you can reasonably continue your job.
The Health of Working
According to the Journal of Rehabilitation (2006), "Loss of the ability to work has been associated with decreased quality of life in persons with MS. Understanding the factors that influence job retention in persons with MS could be beneficial for those persons and society." For people living with MS, the ability to work a job helps sustain a quality of life. If MS patients are physically and cognitively able to keep working, experts believe that they should. Resources are available to help as patients transition from how they used to do their jobs to how they'll need to do it while living with MS.
Remaining in Your Current Job
Just because MS has been diagnosed doesn't mean that you immediately have to find a new job that you think may better accommodate the disease. Multiple sclerosis progresses differently in people, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and fatigue and cognitive issues are more of a factor than physical ones. For physical jobs, walking and balance may become issues. Individuals with MS who want to remain in their current jobs can learn more about what accommodations are available through the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Before deciding to stay at their current jobs or to find other ones that they feel are more suited to their condition, MS patients should keep in mind that the best job will be one that will not only accommodate, but will provide the kind of benefits needed as MS progresses over time. Health benefits, sick leave and even retraining should all be considered. A vocational rehabilitation specialist or a career counselor will have information and resources to help patients understand benefits offered at their jobs, as well as accommodations that employers are willing to provide for any continuing education that may be necessary.
Working with and Accomodating MS
Living with MS means that eventually individuals may need to modify how they do things. If balance or walking are issues, or if cognitive impairments or fatigue present problems, MS patients should modify the way they approach their jobs to help ensure that they stay working longer. The Job Accommodation Network presented the following questions that employees with MS should ask themselves: What limitations am I experiencing? How do these limitations affect me and my job performance? What job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations? What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Do supervisory personnel and employees need training regarding MS? Are all possible resources being used to determine accommodations will be needed?