In many instances people in the early stages of a rare or young onset diagnosis can maintain work. This can be dependent on the type of work and the workplace's ability to provide accommodation to the worker. It is common that symptoms may first present themselves in a person's workplace. This could include changes to a person's ability to problem solve, do a complex task, navigate a physical space or do tasks quickly. Maintain relationships at work, with both the employer and colleagues is important. Maintaining positive relationships can be enhanced by workplace accommodations needed to mitigate symptoms. When symptoms go unrecognized for what they are, or are not accommodated, this can be interpreted as a work performance issue. When a person living with a diagnosis is best supported to do their job it will have a positive impact on their health, wellbeing and their work relationships.
Support, or accommodation, in the workplace can include:
Shorter workdays to mitigate increased fatigue levels for the person living with dementia.
Asking colleagues to write down request's versus relying on verbal information sharing.
Having access to meeting minutes shortly after the meeting has taken place.
Using technology, such as a watch or phone that can provide reminders and help to stay on task.
Adjustments to a workspace to address visual or perceptual challenges.
In Canada there is legislation around accessibility. Dementia is considered a medical disability. Employers are required to provide accommodation to workers up until the point of undue hardship to the employer. For people living with dementia there is the choice to share the diagnosis or medical disability with an employer and the choice to share with colleagues. Choosing to share the diagnosis with colleagues in the workplace may have both advantages and challenges. While being open and honest with a disability can help to build understanding and the ability for the team to provide support, there is also the possibility that stigma and the misunderstanding of a diagnosis may be a challenge.
Dementia Alberta is an excellent website with information on supporting employees, talking to your employer, making employment decisions and more.