‘Young onset’ dementia affects people of working age, usually between 30 and 65 years old.
‘Young onset’ dementia affects people of working age, usually between 30 and 65 years old. This is also referred to as ‘early onset’ or ‘working-age’ dementia. Young onset dementia is thought to affect more than 64,000 people in the UK, many of them in the midst of their careers when they start experiencing symptoms.
The most common cognitive impairments in people with dementia are short-term memory loss, the inability to take in new information, and attention loss/distractibility.
The signs can be subtle at first. A person might start to show a lack of competence when performing their regular duties, miss deadlines or make uncharacteristic mistakes, struggle with communicating, writing or dealing with figures, behave inappropriately or have problems using equipment or technology.
The Equality Act 2010 states that an employer cannot make an employee redundant because of a disability, including dementia. An employee may want to continue working, or have to work out of financial need.
This means an employer must make accommodations to help them continue in the workplace. These could include allowing extra time to meet deadlines, presenting information visually and verbally, and demonstrating tasks multiple times if necessary.
Employers could also reduce an employee’s level of responsibility; move them to a different role, allow more flexible hours or more frequent breaks; find them a less distracting office or work area; provide aids and equipment, such as voice recorders and check lists; and provide examples of completed work for reference.
Sharing a dementia diagnosis with others is difficult, so when an employee is ready to tell their colleagues, it is important that staff are well informed and willing to help and support them. This will create the right environment for the employee with dementia to work as well as they can.
Finally, an employee may need additional support with emotional issues. It is common to feel down or anxious when going through these changes, adjusting to new roles at work, and coping with stress. And, when the time comes, the employee will need help and advice in leaving employment.
Tessa Gutteridge is director of YoungDementia UK