Working with Dementia
Earlier this month, Global News ran a 5 part series called Living with Dementia. One of these parts was devoted specifically to early onset dementia and how this can have an impact on those who still need to work. Global News reported that more people are being diagnosed with dementia in their 50s and 60s, but this does not necessarily mean they are in a position to leave the workforce. And, as the report shows, a diagnosis of early onset dementia does not necessarily mean they need to leave the workforce if the appropriate workplace accommodations are implemented.
Of particular interest in this report was the collaborative approach taken between the worker and the employer to create a simple, low cost workplace accommodation that allowed her to do her job and keep her engaged in productive employment. This minimizes the impact of her health condition on her work and maximizes her ability to contribute to the workforce. Also noted in the report, however, was that unfortunately this was not a typical employer. It seemed that this was a large employer which means it has more resources available to devote to arranging workplace accommodations (e.g., dedicated HR department, multi-level management structure, etc). Since the majority of employers in Canada are small, arranging workplace accommodations can be challenging. While it is recognized that employers in Canada have a duty to accommodate to the point of undue hardship and most accommodations are simple, low cost/no cost solutions, the reality remains that workplace accommodations are not always made available to employees. As disability management and vocational rehabilitation professionals, we are well aware of the myriad of factors that may influence the implementation of workplace accommodations including: lack of understanding of the duty to accommodate, insufficient resources (either human or financial) to arrange the accommodation, lack of understanding of what is needed and how the accommodation can work, etc.
Nonetheless, the example shown in Global News’ report clearly illustrated that there are employers who see the value in making workplace accommodations available and the value in working collaboratively with their employees to keep them attached to the workforce.