An increase in older employees in the workplace, fuelled by both reduced pension pots and a desire to stay active for longer, will mean employers need to prepare to handle an uplift in age-related illnesses and diseases, according to RedArc Nurses.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, over 40,000 people in the UK are living with early onset dementia, meaning that they were diagnosed before the age of 65, and there is evidence to suggest that dementia prevalence in this age group is on the rise.* This means that many people have or will receive the diagnosis whilst still being of working age – something that RedArc believes employers need to address.
A retired blue chip HR Director and legal expert who suffers with the condition explained that even though his cognitive faculties are not yet affected by the condition, only his balance, believes his employer’s fears pushed him into early retirement.
“Once I shared my diagnosis, holding such a senior position, it was curtains as far as my career was concerned. There is a definite need for more education about age related illness, it certainly isn’t ‘one size fits all.’ I now give talks on the issue. Staff should be able to remain at work if they are still capable of performing their role.”
Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc says:
“Just as the workplace has had to adapt to other demographic changes to the workforce, such as women returning to work after having children and offering shared paternity leave, job security, flexible working etc, we are going to have to face up to making similar adaptations for older workers.
“The recent Brain Awareness Week helped give a real focus to thinking about these issues, from how HR and line managers tackle prevention – where appropriate, diagnosis, treatment, a return to work and any reasonable adjustments that need to be made to the older individual’s working patterns.”
RedArc suggests that employers may also want to raise this discussion with providers of group risk and health insurance products, to ensure that policies do provide suitable support for an ageing workforce. Many insurance products now offer added-value services, so even if financial remuneration is not available, medical and emotional support may be.
Christine Husbands concluded:
“A diagnosis of dementia or other age-related condition doesn’t necessarily mean an employee’s working life is immediately over but at the same time it will obviously come as quite a shock. Third-party support services offered via healthcare and group risk products can be invaluable in helping that individual navigate the NHS; arrange therapy; find relevant charities and self-help groups; as well as provide a much-needed expert ear to discuss other issues such as whether to return to work.”
The Alzheimer’s Society has a free guide available about Creating a Dementia Friendly Workplace which includes information on referring to external third parties to ensure the individual receives the best possible outcomes.