Supporting staff with dementia an employers guide

old and young hand hold

This resource has been put together to assist employers in how to support employees with dementia to continue to work and includes information on what dementia is and what support is available from employers, and for employees in the workplace.

What is dementia?

The Alzheimer’s Society (2015) describes dementia as: ‘a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language.’ 

A person with dementia may also find that their mood can be affected, for example, they may become irritable, frustrated, withdrawn, anxious, sad, or easily upset. These symptoms may appear gradually but will get to a point where they affect a person’s everyday life. Getting an early diagnosis and offering support early on in the journey can really impact how well a person will live and work with dementia.

Statistics about dementia

  • Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, but there are many other types of dementia.
  • In 2015, it is predicted there will be approximately 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia.
  • One in 14 people over 65 have dementia.
  • There are more than 40,000 people in the UK under 65 who are living with dementia.

What can employers do to help?

There are many ways in which employers can help to support a member of staff whose circumstances have changed due to dementia. This could include:

  • Flexible working practices - this can be flexi-time, home working, annualised hours, shift swapping, early retirement, self-rostering, job sharing or part-time working. It may also be a consideration to redeploy the employee into a less stressful or a more appropriate role as a way of keeping them well at work
  • Management support – having a supportive manager is key in enabling someone living with dementia to feel that they can continue to work
  • Supporting staff – HR and managers need to be trained in how to support staff. Not knowing how to help when first approached by someone with dementia could impact whether they remain at work or take time off sick
  • Support from Occupational Health (OH) and HR – OH and HR teams can offer help and advice on keeping well at work. This may be through access to leaflets, support groups or simply having a contact name they can turn to if needed. Both OH and HR, should have well informed ‘experts’ in each team who are trained to support employees with dementia
  • OH assessment – after the first conversation, a follow up assessment to assess the employee’s needs and support them is encouraged as adjustments may need to be made. This may be by giving them a fixed desk to work from so they can recollect where items are or having a set lunch break
  • Communications - it is helpful to publicise information and guidance about dementia on the intranet and/or in staff handbooks. Many workplaces now use digital and social media to communicate with staff and could use this channel to create an online support group for those living with, or caring for someone with dementia
  • Create an open environment – it is important for a person working with dementia to still feel as though they’re part of the team. Creating a culture where staff feel comfortable to talk about their health freely and where they can discuss the support they may need without prejudice is vital.
  • Access to work – the access to work scheme is administered by the Department of Work and Pensions and is available to support anyone with a disability to make the adjustments required to stay in employment
  • Dementia Friends – encourage staff to become Dementia Friends which is a by attending a free awareness session. There are already more than 1 million Dementia Friends in the UK
  • NHS health check – encourage all staff to have their free NHS health check to support all employees general wellbeing and enable the early detection of any wellbeing concerns
  • Other services – work with support services, such as NHS health at work to get specific advice on how to support staff to stay well whilst in employment.

There are a number of options for employers to consider listed above to support staff with dementia in the workplace. If you are not aware you may want to ask your manager what options are available to you. It is important to creat an environment in which every employee understands dementia and feels able to talk about it.

You could encourage this open dialogue by:

  • Speaking about your experience
  • Providing information, leaflets and newsletters
  • Suggest working with the Alzheimer's Society representative in your area
  • Use positive language when talking about dementia in the workplace.

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