Atrial fibrillation

Impact of atrial fibrillation on work

For some people we interviewed, having atrial fibrillation (AF) made little difference to their working lives. In jobs of a more sedentary nature (inactive), or with a degree of flexibility or independence, AF did not need to be an issue with supportive managers and colleagues. Dave accepted that AF might have had a bigger impact if his job involved more physical labour than ‘reading off a computer or providing my opinion’. Others had retired before the onset of AF. Eileen, a former nurse reflected, ‘it wouldn’t have been compatible with nursing – what would they say on the ward if you said “Excuse me, I’ve gone into AF”?’
For some, however, a diagnosis of AF could have a ‘tremendous impact’ on their working lives. James was unable to work for almost a year following a stroke due to undiagnosed AF. When he did return to work, he felt things were different and his company covered him ‘in cotton wool’ and ‘never let me get back to where I was’. Chris Y took early retirement a year after having a TIA (minor stroke) – he felt the stress of his job was not helping his AF. Though George Y has no regrets, the danger of a stroke, one of the ‘most debilitating, sudden, life changing disabilities that anyone could be given’ was enough to convince him to retire from teaching. (For more see ‘Atrial fibrillation, stroke and blood thinning medication’).
AF symptoms can be invisible and not always obvious to employers or colleagues. (For more see ‘First signs and symptoms of atrial fibrillation’ and ‘Diagnosing atrial fibrillation’). This can add to the challenges people face. Support and understanding from employers is crucial in helping people return to work after episodes of AF.
Some people we spoke to also highlighted the difficulties and frustrations associated with managing long term sick leave and correspondence with authorities.
Having AF has meant a rearrangement of working lives for some people we interviewed. Some have been unable to continue working at all because of symptoms, others have decided to work part-time or to retire. Inevitably this has had an impact on their finances.


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