Oct 14, 2019

Does your workplace cater to the needs of people living with dementia?

With more people choosing to continue working for longer these days, it’s more likely there will be greater numbers of people experiencing the early signs of dementia while they remain in the workforce.

Are employers ready to cope with the inevitable challenges this will bring?

There are a number of reasons that Australians are working for longer. We are healthier and living longer lives. The pension age is rising, and we have some of the highest rates of household debt in the world, so there are financial incentives to continue working until we are older.

Remaining at work also keeps people mentally stimulated and engaged in society, which have both been proven to be good for us.

But as the number of people who work well into their sixties and beyond rises, it’s more likely there will also be an increase in the number of people who experience health problems, including dementia, while still a member of the workforce. 

Half a million people are living with dementia in Australia at present, and of those, 30,000 are under the age of 65. Those numbers are forecast to continue rising.

Dementia is likely to become a significant issue for organisations to manage. But are employers aware of the needs of people who have dementia?

Catering to the needs of employees diagnosed with dementia

Employers have a responsibility to cater for the needs of employees who have been diagnosed with dementia.

They have a responsibility to uphold the rights of people living with dementia, just as they would for all other employees.

Organisations may need to conduct training to ensure they are ready to cater for the needs of staff who have dementia. Training can help to manage employees with dementia, but it can also raise awareness and understanding of dementia in the workplace. 

Training and awareness building may be extended to include customers and other members of the workplace’s community.

How might dementia affect people at work?

Dementia affects every aspect of a person’s life. With greater understanding of the condition, employees can help people who have been diagnosed remain in the workforce for as long as they wish.

Dementia Live® can help organisations build up their knowledge and understanding of dementia, and create greater empathy for anyone who is living with the condition.

Dementia can affect people at work in many ways.

Communication – people living with dementia may have difficulty at work communicating their ideas both verbally and in writing.

Emotions – people living with dementia may have trouble controlling their emotions.

Environment – is the work environment easy for someone living with dementia to navigate? Is the person having trouble working in a busy office space?

Noise – people with dementia may become more sensitive to noise, which can be a problem at work, particularly in open plan offices.

Technology – people living with dementia can learn to use technology in new ways to help them manage their time and to set reminders.

Colour and contrast – people with dementia can lose the ability to discriminate between different colours, especially those of similar colours

Responsibility – if an employee is diagnosed with dementia, they may struggle to maintain the level of responsibility they were previously able to manage.

Of course dementia can affect people in different ways and every person with dementia has their own range of symptoms.

How can employers help?

Employers can help staff who are living with dementia by ensuring all staff and the broader work community understand the condition and are aware of the person’s needs. 

They can make sure the person and their carer feel supported, and know how to get help. 

They can ensure that the person feels capable and included, that they have control over their lives, and are able to continue to make a contribution to the organisation.

How Dementia Live can help

Dementia Live immerses participants in a simulated experience of the sensory changes and emotions that may occur with dementia. 

It provides people with a deeper insight of what it might feel like to live with dementia, enabling participants to have greater understanding and empathy for what a person living with dementia is going through. 

Organisations that undergo Dementia Live can foster a dementia-friendly culture that helps not only the person living with dementia, but also carers, families, other staff, and the broader community.

Dementia Live can help you make your organisation dementia friendly. We can train selected staff who are then enabled to to take their knowledge back to staff, clients, and the workplace community.

To register for a Dementia Live experience or to find out more about coach training, contact Sue on 1300 216 225 or sue@brainsparks.com.au, or visit the Brainsparks website.


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