Dialysis & Work
Each year in the U.S., about half of the people who start dialysis are of working-age: under 65 years old. Yet only about one in four working-age patients decide to keep working after starting treatment. There are advantages to staying in your job. It can help you maintain your self-esteem, your income, and your health insurance, along with other benefits. So talk with your doctor before you assume that you can’t work. There may be options that you have not considered that can help you stay in your job. For example, people on home treatment are more likely to be working than those who are on standard in-center hemodialysis.
The benefits of working
Working is good for you. Having kidney failure does not mean you have to give up your job. Generally, people who continue to work feel better and more easily maintain their lifestyle throughout treatment. They often:
- Are less depressed
- Have better self-esteem
- Have more chances to visit with others
- Have a higher income
- More easily stick to what their doctor prescribes
Your rights in the workplace
There are laws that can help you keep a job or find a new one. The Americans With Disabilities Act requires employers of 15 or more workers to make small changes so people with disabilities can continue working. These changes could be:
- Time off to go to dialysis or a facility visit
- Time and a place to do a PD exchange
- An extra rest break.
Do your best to make up lost time so you are seen as a productive worker. If you think you have been discriminated against due to your kidney problem, contact the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission at http://www.eeoc.gov.
If you don’t feel well enough to work full-time, see if you can cut back to part-time or take a short-term disability leave until your health is stable. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers with 50 or more workers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to take care of their own or a loved one’s health. You don’t have to take all of this time at once. In fact, you can use as little as 15 minutes at a time. Talk with your boss in advance if you need to use FMLA time. Taking advantage of FMLA leave should not affect your job, seniority, and opportunity for promotions and raises.
Help to Return to Work
Perhaps you want to go back to work. The Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act (TTWWII) allows states to give Medicaid to disabled workers. The TTWWII lets you choose where to get Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services—from your state VR or from a private employment network. Social Security repays the VR office for any costs of services it covers for you. The private employment network makes money if you get a good job, go off disability and keep a job for at least 5 years. Under the Work Opportunities Tax Credit, employers may receive tax credits for hiring state VR clients with disabilities. This means that they should be all the more willing to help you find and keep a job.
Social Security Work Incentive Programs
Social Security has a number of work incentive programs for people who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Income (SSDI). We talk about a few of them here. To learn more, see “A Summary Guide to Employment Support for Individuals with Disabilities.” This can be found under the Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Programs on http://www.socialsecurity.gov/redbook/eng/main.htm.