The effect of osteoporosis on work and finances

Whilst many of the people we talked to had been retired for many years, some were still working full or part-time. Here people discuss the effect of osteoporosis on work and finances. Some people said that they found it difficult to work full-time because of their osteoporosis and had either retired, were thinking of doing so or had decided to work part-time.
Several people had to give up work after diagnosis and/or because their condition had got worse. Pat and Rose were on sick leave for a long time following their spinal fractures and when Rose returned part-time to her work, she did a different job with less responsibility to the one she had left. Pat was asked by her employer to take early retirement because as a nurse she could no longer do her job. Retiring because of illness at a relatively early age can be hard, particularly for men.

Although several people said that osteoporosis was having a detrimental effect on their working life, work also kept them active and gave them a sense of achievement. Laurence does manual work and in the last few months he has started to get more pain than before after doing some heavy work. Although he enjoys his work, he is thinking of working part-time or retiring in a few years time. 

Emma has reduced the number of hours she does every day but still continues to work five days a week because she wants to keep active. Originally she planned to keep working until the age of sixty-three but now it will very much depend on her health. Jane took a longer journey to work to avoid using public transport that also ensured her a parking place so she could reduce the need to carry things for long periods of time.
A few people had decided to work part time or were thinking about early retirement because they wanted the time to do things they enjoyed while they were still fit and able, in case their osteoporosis deteriorated and affected what they could do in the future.
Having more time in the week had enabled some people to manage their osteoporosis better, by having the time to do exercise.
Several people worked for their local councils and made the point that the public sector, like local government organisations and the NHS, were good employers. David, who has also had rheumatoid arthritis since he was a child, said that his employer, the city council, had been ‘fantastic’ in providing anything he needed to do his work. He is helped through a special initiative called ‘Access to Work’. Access to Work provides advice and practical support to disabled people and its employers to help with work related problems resulting from a disability.
Jenny who worked for Social Services for twenty years, said there was never any money for new equipment so she did not ask for any special equipment herself. Emma started having headaches that her doctor thought were work-related.
Gloria worked for the voluntary sector. She said that although Health and Safety is a big issue now people still did not realise how serious and fatal osteoporosis can be.
A few people did not see the need to tell their employers that they had osteoporosis because they did not require any special equipment and their ability to do their job was not affected by their condition. Marylin who does a desk job was able to take regular breaks and went up and down the stairs several times during her working day. But other women, like Sarah and Jenny, found it difficult to stop what they were doing and take a rest every twenty minutes. Side effects of medication can also make people feel irritable or tired which can affect working life
Several people were working as volunteers for various organisations and said that voluntary work gave them a structure to their day, a chance to use their skills, social contacts and social status (see also Osteoporosis organisations and local support groups).
Chris has just completed her Master degree in Art and wasn’t been able to start work because she was due to have more surgery on her ankle.
Financial impact
Osteoporosis can have several cost implications. Several people purchased equipment for around the house, such as stair lifts, electric operated garage doors, extra handrails, special adapted kitchen utensils or built a walk-in-shower. Other people had to replace things they already had like an armchair, bed, mattress and sofa. A few bought an adapted, more comfortable car, or had to pay for taxis. Some people saw a private consultant and/or physiotherapist, joined a health club or regularly paid for complementary treatments and/or bought vitamin supplements.
Being elderly, living alone and having restricted mobility could also add to the cost as people paid for cleaning, gardening, having groceries delivered and in some cases buying special clothes. David paid for his wheelchair and although he is aware he can get funding for it he said it is quicker to get it himself. Susannah said that she has paid a lot of money for supplements and equipment to help with her osteoporosis (see for example Impact on home due to osteoporosis and Use of complementary therapies by people with osteoporosis).
Osteoporosis had affected some people financially. Those who retired early said that they had to be ‘careful’ with their incomes and savings. For instance, Susan couldn’t afford to see a private consultant because she has a small pension. Laurence, who is still working, was aware that early retirement will affect his monthly income because at present he has a pension and a salary. Chris thought that both her fracture and her divorce had an impact on her finances. Emma’s son and daughter live with her and help with the household expenses.
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A few people said that they were in receipt of government benefits, which was given for other conditions and not osteoporosis. For a person to qualify for such benefits a form must be completed and a doctor usually has to examine the person to assess whether he/she can perform certain tasks.
Some people have had their needs for services and equipment assessed by Social Services and a written report was made about their personal needs.

Last reviewed June 2017.
Last updated June 2017.



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