Safe and healthy working with dementia

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Occupational health experts have urged employers to be aware that workers who are diagnosed with early onset dementia –– dementia at a relatively young age –– should not be considered to become dangerous or incompetent overnight and with the correct support, care and occupational advice, many will be able to continue safe, healthy and productive employment, well beyond the diagnosis.

The advice has been offered in a recent paper published in the journal Occupational Medicine which warned that employees with early onset dementia face a lack of support at work and early dismissal, with those working in low paid employment losing their jobs earlier than those working in high paid roles.

Statistics suggest there are around 42,000 people diagnosed with dementia under the age of 65 years and many of them are employed at the time of diagnosis.

Reality television star Helen Wood says her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia in her early 50’s, having worked as a teaching assistant in a primary school for 17 years.

Helen said, “I’m disgusted by the way she was treated, she’s so wonderful with children and she has so many traits needed for the role, but she lost her job within a few weeks of the diagnosis.”

Occupational physician and co-author of the study Dr Richard Heron said, “There remains much stigma around mental health, and particularly the “D” word, Dementia which is perhaps becoming as feared as the “C” word, cancer was.

“With earlier detection and anticipation of more effective treatments on the horizon, a diagnosis of early dementia should not mean the immediate end of a working life … With the right support, care and occupational advice, many will be able to continue safe, healthy and productive employment, well beyond their diagnosis."

Professor Tom Dening, co-author of the study added, "Dementia is a disability … It isn’t contagious and, although it does usually progress over time, it does not turn people into incompetent or dangerous employees overnight.”

Last reviewed 5 December 2018

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