Dementia Symptoms While in Paid Employment: Impact on Occupational Competence and Occupational Participation
Retirement is considered a rite of passage at a nominal age in developed countries including the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. However, there is growing international concern that people are living well beyond ‘retirement age’. Consequently, there have been strategic shifts in government policy worldwide to increase workforce participation of older workers. Therefore, the number of individuals presenting with signs and symptoms of a dementia whilst still in paid work is also likely to increase. Meanwhile many employers and their HR representatives consider they are ill-equipped to both recognize symptoms of cognitive decline in the workplace; and address issues associated with managing the impact on workforce participation when a worker experiences onset and progression of dementia.
- addressing disparities between inherent requirements of the job and a worker’s decline in functional capacity that may be related to dementia;
- provision of reasonable workplace adjustments in line with workforce participation choices and legal obligations; and
- enabling a supported transition to medical retirement
- Dementia refers to a progressive set if symptoms of cognitive decline and onset is not limited to only older populations.
- A large proportion of people who develop younger onset dementia (onset at <65years) will be working.
- Approximately one in every 1000 people or 3.4% of the US population under the age of 65 have some form of dementia.
- Approximately 42 000 people under the age of 65 in the UK are living with symptoms of dementia.
- Approximately 27 000 people under the age of 65 in Australia are living with symptoms of dementia.
- Approximately 16 000 people under the age of 65 in Canada are living with symptoms of dementia.
- Obtaining a timely diagnosis of dementia becomes problematic when symptoms are misattributed to other factors such as stress, substance abuse, or a normal part of ageing.
- In contrast to normal age related changes in functional capacity, a worker with dementia may experience progressively worsening short term memory loss, difficulties with planning, problem solving and sequencing tasks, poor orientation to time and place, and problems recognizing familiar people or objects.
- The extent to which dementia impacts on functional capacity to remain engaged in paid work differs between individuals due to variations in dementia type and progression, as well as differences in the physical, cognitive and psycho-social task complexities across occupations.