Every three minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with dementia. However, more and more people diagnosed with dementia are able to continue working for longer.
What is Dementia?
The term dementia refers to a group of symptoms connected with the ongoing decline of brain function. It can affect the way we speak, the way we think and the way we behave. Indications often start small and may seem insignificant but can develop into a life-changing condition, making an early diagnosis key to slowing down its development.
Dementia affects everyone differently, but symptoms may include issues with:
- memory loss
- mental processing speed
- language or trouble speaking
- understanding and judgement
How to tell your employer
In most case, getting a diagnosis of dementia does not mean you have to give up on your career. Dementia affects everyone differently and in the majority of cases, employers are able to make suitable arrangements so you can continue working for a longer period of time. Still, it is important to talk to your employer about your diagnosis at the earliest opportunity.
Feeling nervous or anxious about telling your employer is normal, but many companies have policies and procedures in place to support staff. Be as open and honest with them as you can, without the right information companies are unable to make suitable adjustments and make your situation more manageable.
Talking to other colleagues about your diagnosis can also be beneficial and a great source of support as you decide on your future. It is a good idea to check your contract of employment too, as some professions such as the Armed Forces or airline industry require you to inform your employer if you are diagnosed with dementia or other similar disabilities.
Choosing whether to keep working
There are over 40,000 people with dementia under the age of 65. Whilst not everyone diagnosed has the opportunity to decide on their future, for a lot of people, choosing to keep working can help improve their mental and physical wellbeing and allow them to keep some ownership of their financial and family commitments.
You should decide on what’s best for your future based on your own personal set of circumstances and the options available. To ensure you are not be unfairly influenced by others, talk to both family members and healthcare professionals about your situation.
It is difficult to predict how long you will be able to keep working, but early diagnosis and medication can help you stay in work for longer. There are multiple factors which may influence your choice to stay working, including the type of work or the level of responsibility you have within your role. If you feel as though continuing to work is not for you, another option may be to consider early retirement or a less demanding position.
If you are a younger person with dementia and have financial commitments such as a mortgage, it would be worthwhile discussing the issue of how to deal with this should you have to leave your job. Services such as Citizen’s Advice or your local Alzheimer Association may be able to advise you on this and help you get the required support. Where necessary your doctor can obtain a certificate of incapacity to work. This can enable you to stop working without affecting your pension rights, particularly if you are nearing retirement.
Advice for employers
As the retiring age increases, the number of people living with dementia whilst choosing to continue working is set to rise. With the overall number of people with dementia in the UK forecast to increase to over 1 million by 2025, a recent survey of employers found that 89 per cent recognised dementia was a growing issue for their organisation and their staff.
With this in mind, here are 3 tips to help make your workplace ‘Dementia Friendly’:
- Be caring and considerate. Recognise and understand that workers with dementia and other degenerative disabilities may be fearful of their future and might need extra support to cope with their diagnosis.
- Develop a trusting relationship with your employees and encourage staff members to come forward with personal problems or mental health issues.
- Consider making adaptions to the workplace, such as clear signage and revised HR policies, to ensure employees working with dementia are fully supported to continue working for as long as they choose.