It is possible to live well, and work well, with dementia – but both employers and employees need to acknowledge the issue, and approach it in the right way, for that to happen.
Employers can address this by taking the following steps:
1) Foster an open and supportive working culture
So that should an employee experience problems with memory, thinking or communication, they are likely to both tell you and seek medical advice. Dementia shouldn’t be taboo; encourage conversation about it so that myths and stigma can be dispelled. Send a clear message that anyone with a problem related to dementia will be shown compassion, not the door.
2) Look at dementia as you would at disabilities generally.
Dementia fits the definition of disability in the Equality Act 2010. As such employees living with it, and those who are caring for someone with dementia, enjoy the Act’s protection. In addition much of what has been learned over the years from supporting employees with other forms of disability can be applied to dementia – not least looking first at what they can do, rather than what they can’t.
3) Encourage healthy working lifestyles
Many of the risk factors associated with dementia are related to lifestyle. These include; lack of exercise, type 2 diabetes, smoking, alcohol misuse, high blood pressure and obesity. Look at what you, as an employer, can do to support your employees to adopt and enjoy lifestyles that minimise the risk.
4) Be a ‘carer friendly’ employer
Employees who are caring for someone who is living with dementia will need, and are entitled to, flexibility and support - and an appreciation, by you, that the demands on them will increase as the dementia progresses.
5) Don’t see problems – find opportunities
Employees with early stage dementia don’t suddenly lose all their skills and abilities– by being dementia aware you can prolong the value they add to your organisation. Demonstrating compassion towards employees affected by dementia will boost morale and help you recruit the best people. Some adjustments for dementia can benefit all staff – such as improving how you communicate with each other. And, with the spending power of households affected by dementia forecast to reach £22.7 billion by 2030*, dementia aware companies stand to gain in the marketplace.