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Getting to grips with dementia in the workplace

24th Mar 2017
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The average age of employees in the workplace is increasing. That’s not a new statement to make, I know, but this simple fact – though encouraging – does present a number of considerations for HR and talent management teams.  While I don’t plan on going into full details of these for this particular post, I do want to focus on one specific challenge: managing those with dementia.

Dementia in the workplace

As the retirement age increases, the number of those in employment living with dementia will only grow. According to current statistics from the Government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (acas), there are over 40,000 people under the age of 65 who have been diagnosed with dementia in the UK alone. Of these, almost one in five are still in employment.

It’s perhaps no surprise then that more businesses are now looking at how they can support and manage employees with the condition, with a survey from the Alzheimer’s Society revealing that almost 89 percent of employers acknowledge that this is a growing issue for their organisation.

So what do HR professionals need to do?

In the first instance, it’s vital that talent management teams and line managers learn to recognise when an individual is displaying signs of the condition so that they can offer the right support as soon as possible. Symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for depression or stress so knowing what to look out for and what support systems to put in place is key.

It’s important that employers foster a culture of openness and understanding so that staff with dementia feel they can be open about their condition without the fear of stigmatism. Remember as well that a diagnosis doesn’t have to mark the end of work for the employee. As the statistics I mentioned earlier demonstrate, many choose to continue in employment, particularly those in the early stages. From a company perspective, individuals with some degree of memory loss can continue to offer valuable skills and experiences, often for several years after a diagnosis, so providing an environment that helps them to thrive is beneficial.

And of course, it can’t be forgotten that all employers have a legal obligation to support employees with dementia under the 2010 Equality Act, so having a plan in place to best manage this process is vital for any organisation.

Finally, I feel the need to emphasise that employers and HR teams need not fear extensive workplace adjustment in order to best support staff with dementia. It can often be the case that once an organisation gets to grips with the condition, adjustments may be as simple as installing new signage or allowing individuals to stagger their working hours to make their commute more manageable.

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By jasonlopez
17th Dec 2017 10:45

The key is to detect any early onset of Mild Cognitive Impairment which then can lead to Dementia, Alzheimer ...etc. Employees must be monitored constantly even for any signs of mood disorders and to keep them at peak brain performance.

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