Why dementia really is HR’s problem

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Indirect impact

On the flip side, scores of employees are also under phenomenal stress as they try to juggle to responsibilities of full-time work with informal caregiving and, in many circumstances, raising children.

Approximately one-fifth of Canadians aged 45 and over provide some form of care to seniors and by the time employees in their 30s reach that age, even more are expected to do the same.

The physical and psychological toll is unprecedented – up to 75 per cent of family caregivers will develop psychological illnesses and 15 to 32 per cent will experience depression.

“Anyone who is a family caregiver is under huge stress and when they’re at work,” agreed Henderson. “You’re using the phone, you’re researching, you’re trying to find answers, your stress levels are huge and you’re not productive.

“Employers who do not recognize this issue will see their employees between 50 and 65 losing tremendous productivity and losing their own health,” she warned.

“They’re going to be absent from work, they’re going to ask for leaves of absence, they’re going to quit and you know that it costs more to hire and retrain then it does to keep a current employee.”

Action plan

According to Henderson, there’s some essential steps any employer can take to alleviate the stress caregivers are under while demonstrating your support for any employers who may fear developing the disease.

“First of all if you have an employee assistance program that’s a good tool for helping caregivers cope,” she told HRM.

“Employers can also have resources on site, they can have a place where employees can go and access print materials that the employer has collected or they can access bookmarked websites on a computer that will help them cope with dementia in various ways,” she continued.

Henderson also suggested employers hold caregiver fairs where suppliers and experts – such as the Alzheimer’s Society, a home-care company, or a consultant – are invited into the workplace to interact with employees and offer education.

“They can also be more understanding of employees who are caregivers,” she stressed. “Make their schedules more flexible, let them work from home if possible, understand that they may have to make or take phone calls regarding the person that they’re caring for and just being open and compassionate with these people because they are under a tremendous amount of stress.”
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