Industry expert and long-term care planning consultant Karen Henderson told HRM that employers need to be prepared for the impact dementia will have on their workforce because they will, without doubt, be affected at some point.
“Employers are going to be affected in two ways,” Henderson told HRM. “It’s going to affect them because they will have employees with dementia due to our aging workforce and they’re going to have employees who are caring for a friend or family member who has dementia due to the struggling healthcare system.”
While dementia is often labelled as an old person’s disease, Canadians are now staying in the workforce far longer – a recent Sun Life Financial poll found that nearly one-third (32 per cent) said they expected to work beyond the typical retirement age of 65.
And the disease doesn’t just target seniors – between two and 10 per cent of cases in Canada occur before the age of 65.
It’s an epidemic that employers should feel obligated to address, says Henderson.
“The sooner employers can get a program in place – to educate employees, to alert employees to watch their co-workers to see if somebody is struggling, to offer support if an individual needs it – the better,” she stressed.
“Even if an individual does not want to recognize it in the workplace, an employer should be encouraging people to seek medical attention if they suspect something is not right,” she added.
“One of the things that people don’t understand is that they think if you’re diagnosed with a cognitive impairment that the party’s over – well that’s not true,” asserted Henderson.
“People can live and work for years, productively, with the right medical attention and support,” she said, “but what they do need to do is put their wills in place, their powers of attorney in place, their advance directives, so all of that is looked after.”
Three-quarters of a million Canadians are currently living with dementia and the worrying statistic is only going to get worse – in a little over 15 years, a staggering 1.4 million citizens are expected to be suffering from the disease – but what can HR do about it?