When Your Employee Has Dementia

Employees’ mental health is a big concern; especially now, due to the negative impact the pandemic has on mental health. But what do you do when an employee seems to be forgetful? What about when you notice a decline in their ability to do their job?

For example, what about an employee who

  • Forgets procedures they’ve done for years.
  • Seems confused 
  • Gets lost going places they’ve been to before
  • Repeatedly asking the same questions, even if they’ve received the answer.

These are all signs of the onset of dementia. The World Health Organization estimates that 5 to 8 percent of people over 60 suffer from some form of dementia, but it can begin much earlier–in people’s 30s, 40s, or 50s. So, what do you do if you notice an employee who seems to be struggling?

To keep reading, click here: When Your Employee Has Dementia

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5 thoughts on “When Your Employee Has Dementia

  1. I guess my question would be, if the ADA permits an employer to require an exam under these circumstances, is the employer then entitled to the results? I mean, if an employee can simply come back and say, “Doc says I’m fine” because they are fearful or embarrassed – or in denial. To what extent can the employer obtain proof here? Or is it then a matter of no disability was disclosed, so we’re not obligated by ADA regulations, therefore we can discipline and/or terminate an employee if we feel the need?

  2. I’m not sure that the employer should be the party to initiate the discussion of possible medical issues, or to push for a fitness-for-duty exam. I do agree that the approach should focus on performance and should be as compassionate as possible, especially in the case of long-term employees not previously exhibiting such problems. In my experience, once performance questions are raised, it’s — generally — the employee that brings up potential medical concerns.

  3. This also can be taken as an ageism tactic, especially if there was a change in management. or sudden new work requirements. For these kinds of performance issues to become noticed, someone would have been looking for these specifically. Besides, why are these performance issues are problematic in what way determinantal to the job. HR should be the one evaluating the person, the same way as another employee. If the end result is the same, there should be no problem. There would be physical manifestation if this was a medical issue. And if you as the employer are going to use the ADA ploy, be prepared to have to offer accommodations before elimination of the person.

  4. Several years ago I had a coworker in their late 40’s who had undiagnosed dementia, and ticked all of the boxes in the example. They went from being the go-to admin and budget person, to not being able to recall the simplest of procedures. Because they were being treated for other medical issues, about which they willingly shared information, many people thought it was due to medication or was stress related. Her supervisor, after trying to address the performance element for some time, eventually spoke with the employee and their spouse, who also worked for the agency, but not before it had gotten really bad. The employee was diagnosed and they both retired early so they could deal with the dementia; it was, and continues to be, a terrible situation for their family. We all wished we had been more aware of the possibility of dementia and that we had noticed the signs and spoken up sooner. It’s awful to see someone in mental decline, and even harder in the workplace where it can be difficult to maintain boundaries. While Suzanne’s article covers the related work issues, it’s important to remember the human element of it all, and to think about the tremendous impact the disease can have on a person and their family.

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