News

Rise of dementia brings condition in the workplace into spotlight

4 min read

27 April 2015

Businesses are being urged to do more to support thousands of British workers suffering the early stages of dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Society wants firms to create dementia-friendly environments to give the 42,000 people of working age suffering with the illness a chance to remain in or gain employment.

According to the society, 20 per cent of people living with dementia are under the age of retirement and with the statutory retirement age rising more people are likely to develop dementia while still in employment.

Indeed the society says a million people will be living with dementia in ten years time.

To support its call the society has launched a new practical guide.

Entitled “Creating a dementia-friendly workplace: A practical guide for employers”, it sets out the best practice for businesses – helping them create an environment where people with dementia and their carers feel confident to talk about their condition openly.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, said: “There is a widespread lack of understanding of dementia. For too long dementia has been seen as only affecting older people who are retired, but with over 40,000 people living with the condition under the age of retirement, this is simply not the case. Likewise, many carers would like to be able to continue earning. 

“Those diagnosed with early onset dementia, commonly have significant financial commitments, such as mortgages or family dependants. They need to stay in paid employment for as long as they are able. People with dementia can still make a meaningful contribution with the right support. Employers that invest in awareness raising and rethink their approach to dementia will retain skills and experience in the workplace.”

Read more about dementia:

Top tips for making a business dementia friendly include:

(1) Creating a dementia friendly work environment

Establish a setting in which every employee understands dementia and feels able to talk about it. If you provide public-facing services, you might also consider how you can make them more accessible to customers or users who have dementia.

(2) Support employees in the early stages

Find a suitable place to speak, with minimal background noise, get the employees full attention, be patient and allow them plenty of time, as it may take them longer to process information. Check with the person that you have understood correctly what they have said.

(3) Provide ongoing support and management

Dementia is a progressive condition and a person’s symptoms will change over time, therefore it is important to continue to meet regularly to monitor and review the situation. You may need to make reasonable adjustments to the job role or physical features of the buildings, fittings or equipment.

(4) Plan for leaving work

When it becomes clear that a member of staff is no longer able to fulfil their role, support the person to agree a dignified exit package and strategy.

(5) Make working more flexible for carers

Under the Equality Act 2010, carers have the right to request flexible working, and the right to request time off to look after dependants in an emergency.