Background: The prevalence of working-aged stroke survivors is increasing yearly. Stroke is an expensive disease, causing financial burden to the government, the family and caregivers of the patient, thus making it imperative for working-aged stroke survivors to work to remain financially independent. Survivors' need to work necessitates occupational therapists to shift their focus from basic activities of daily living, to rehabilitating work.
Objectives: This study aimed to determine the perceptions of occupational therapists working with younger stroke survivors in public hospitals and clinics in Gauteng South Africa, about rehabilitating working-aged stroke survivors' work ability.
Methods: Ethical clearance was obtained. A qualitative research design was used to obtain narrative, descriptive data from six focus groups. Therapists from public healthcare settings, who had more than six months' experience and had worked in neurological rehabilitation within the six months preceding the focus group, were invited to participate. Focus groups were audio recorded and transcribed. Inductive content analysis was used to identify themes and categories.
Results: Few participants are involved in rehabilitating younger stroke survivors' work ability or facilitating return to work (RTW). The study identified perceived barriers and enablers to rendering OT services that meet working-aged stroke survivors' needs.
Conclusions: Despite enabling employment equity laws in South Africa, OTs working in the public sector appear to experience a sense of futility when trying to rehabilitate young stoke survivors to RTW. Fragmentation of the public sector and limited resources impede successful RTW for working-aged stroke survivors. Survivors' employment status and motivation to RTW facilitated rehabilitating work ability.
Keywords: Occupational therapy; attitudes; perceptions; vocational rehabilitation; working-aged stroke survivors.