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, a large study has found.
The research pulls together 44 journal papers and articles, which explore the management of employees who developed dementia between the ages of 30 and 65 years.
The researchers found that those working in low paid or manual jobs were likely to experience an all or nothing response from their boss and face the sack quicker than those in high paid and non-manual professions. There were reports of those with the condition facing little assistance to keep them in work with reports that they were being laid off from contracts, dismissed without consultation and feeling that they were being conspired against.
Young Dementia UK said: “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.
“People with young onset dementia are often dismissed from their places of employment far earlier than they needed to be. Many individuals could have continued with their role if they had the appropriate support and reasonable adjustments made by their employer.”
The researchers have advised employers to take a careful empathetic approach if they suspect an employee could have the condition. The study authors suggest sensitively asking them if they have noticed memory issues or if they have been having similar problems at home. Highlighting that symptoms could be discussed with a family member or a medical professional was also recommended.
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. People will have a range of capabilities that do not change overnight once a diagnosis is made. They will have differing reserves to draw on, and differing home and work demands to take into consideration. 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 and Professor of Dementia Research at the University of Nottingham, and Head of the Centre for Dementia in the Institute of Mental Health said: “Dementia is a disability. It is a disability in relation to memory and other areas of cognition. It isn’t contagious and, although it does usually progress over time, it does not turn people into incompetent or dangerous employees overnight.
“Dementia is usually diagnosed at quite an early stage, so the person may have problems with their memory but not much else and therefore there is no reason to react precipitately or to exclude the person from their job.
“Employers should understand that the person who has the diagnosis will themselves be struggling to deal with the impact of that news, and will require some support and understanding from their workplace.”