Supporting people with Dementia in the workplace

04 Oct 2023

Published in: Member News

In this Workplace Wellbeing blog, Paycare share why it’s important for employers to understand how they can support their team members who are affected by the disease – both those who are diagnosed or those who currently care for loved ones – read more ??

Dementia is a disease which will more than likely impact over 1million people by the end of the 2020s – which means it’s sadly having more of an effect than ever in workplaces across the UK.

While we may traditionally have thought about the condition – which includes forms such as Alzheimer’s, vascular and dementia with Lewy bodies – as unrelated to the world of work, in actual fact employees need to be aware and acting now to ensure they look after their employees going forward. Employers can play a crucial role in either helping to spot the symptoms of dementia or signposting employees who may want to learn more about the support on offer relating to this disease.

What is dementia?

It’s a degenerative disease, which means it gets worse over time, and there is sadly currently no cure. Organisations such as the Alzheimer’s Society have lots of information on their website about symptoms, support and their fundraising efforts to help increase research, understanding and help out there for those diagnosed and their loved ones.

Every five years once a person turns 65, there is double the risk that they will be diagnosed with the condition. But there are also an estimated 70,000 people in the UK who have early onset or young onset dementia (meaning they were diagnosed before the age of 65).

Of course, one of the main symptoms is a loss of memory. But different types of the condition also present their own individual signs:

A person with Alzheimer’s may have trouble planning or concentrating, become confused about times and places, find it difficult to find the right word in conversation, or struggle to contain their emotions.

Vascular dementia can cause difficulty following a set of instructions and problems concentrating, while DLB (dementia with Lewy bodies) causes challenges focusing, sleeping and moving.

Why is this important for employers?

Almost 1.5million workers are aged over 65, and more people each year are opting to work past state retirement age – meaning the likelihood of someone still being an active part of the workforce when their symptoms develop is of course higher.

Of those with early onset dementia, there’s also a likelihood that person could have a job when they begin having the signs of the condition.

And then there are the friends and family of those diagnosed: the nature of the condition means over time the person may come to need increasing support from those around them, plus there is also the emotional effect of a loved one having the disease – especially considering it is degenerative.

So, employers need to be considerate of whether they could spot the symptoms of dementia and know how to signpost a team member who may be experiencing the early stages of the condition (as prompt diagnosis is extremely important), as well as what support they have in place for those looking after loved ones with the disease.

What support can employers provide?

A robust workplace wellbeing strategy will contain many different policies and practices which relate to the holistic health of each employee, including their physical and emotional health.

If you’re not already in the position where your strategy is effective and fully implemented, it may be a case of starting from scratch or developing what you have in place already.

Considerations could include:

• Is there an EAP in place for anyone who needs someone to talk to confidentially?

• Do employees have access to round-the-clock GP appointments? (This is especially key while NHS waiting times are lengthy due to services being stretched).

• Is there something you could put in place which would allow workers to seek a private diagnosis, or undergo tests, if they’re struggling to access NHS services?

• Do team members have enough flexibility to fulfil their caring duties?

• Is your company culture supportive, encouraging team members to feel comfortable approaching a line manager or other colleague to talk about their situation?

• Could you appoint a dementia champion who would collate information about the condition to signpost people towards, and help raise awareness among your workforce?

• If people within the company have been affected by dementia, would taking part in a fundraising or donating to a dementia charity be a nice way to recognise that?

The last point is something we’ve taken action on here at Paycare, given a number of our team members have personal experience of loved ones impacted by the condition. Some of our employees have donated their annual MyGiving funds to the Alzheimer’s Society and others have taken part in Memory Walks and other fundraisers for the charity.

We share information specifically designed to support those with dementia, their loved ones, and their workplaces, such as this blog. And we are also proud sponsors of Wolverhampton Grand Theatre’s Memory Café, which runs exclusive free events for people with dementia and their carers. You can find information about those events here.

If you’d like to know more about putting together a workplace wellbeing strategy, then you can download our free guide here.

Submitted by Katie from Paycare
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