Reasons to be a dementia-inclusive employer

Reasons to be a dementia-inclusive employer

There are many reasons to be a dementia-inclusive employer. Some reasons– such as demonstrating compassion and support for people that you care about– are more obvious and others have been realized through research into the social and economic impacts of dementia in the workplace and society.

Many people with dementia are able to continue working, particularly in the early stages and would want to continue to do so. Additionally, younger Albertans diagnosed with dementia are more likely to have financial commitments, such as mortgages or dependent children, and need to stay working for as long as possible. 

Living with dementia or caring for someone with dementia can have big emotional, social, psychological, and practical impacts on a person. Many people describe these impacts as a series of losses and say that adjusting to them is challenging. Building a supportive, inclusive workplace that strives to acknowledge, understand, and make accommodations to support people impacted by dementia can go a long way to help people feel valued and capable of navigating their challenges.

Dementia-inclusive employers are better equipped to learn about how dementia is affecting their employee and, as desired by the employee, seek opportunities and accommodations to help keep them in the workplace. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that the average person diagnosed with dementia while still at work will have been in their current job for at least nine years (Alzheimer’s Society UK, 2017). Given that age is a factor in dementia, it is likely that most employees diagnosed with dementia have significant experience, expertise, and corporate knowledge. Any opportunity to retain that talent, take a planned approach to succession, and retain as much experience and corporate knowledge as possible is a benefit to you. It can also be a good feeling for employees to know they and their contributions are valued.

Given that one in three Albertans - or more than 30 per cent - are living with dementia or have experience caring for someone with dementia, investing in a workplace where people understand dementia and know how to effectively and compassionately serve people with dementia is an advantage. Your team members will have a greater understanding of how dementia can affect people who interact with your organization and, as a result, will be able to provide better customer service. This can help you build strong customer relationships and ongoing business.

Similar to competitive advantage, many customers are more likely to support brands that demonstrate social responsibility. By making a commitment to be a dementia-inclusive employer and showing your customers how you are following through on that commitment, you are likely to gain credibility and trust. Having a credible brand can go a long way in attracting and retaining customers.

As an employer in Alberta, you have legal obligations to take reasonable steps to accommodate an employee’s individual needs based on protections outlined in the Alberta Human Rights Act. Among the protections are mental or physical disability, which include dementia. You also have a legal obligation to provide compassionate care leave, which protects a care partner’s job for up to 27 weeks, if an employee is caring for a gravely-ill family member or someone the employee considers to be like a close relative. Becoming familiar with your legal obligations and how to meet them is an effective way to respond compassionately, clearly, and supportively when an employee is impacted by dementia. Employers who do this now are investing in their team and business relationships for the future.

On average, Canadian care partners spend $4,600 out-of-pocket annually for each person under their care who is living with dementia (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2019). Care partners of persons with young onset dementia tend to be younger, provide more hours of care, and may experience greater financial impacts as a result of care, as do those care partners who already have a low income. The financial impacts of dementia are even greater when one individual is living with dementia and one or more others who contribute to the household finances are care partners.


The value of being dementia-inclusive


Alzheimer Society. (2017). Dementia-friendly business guide: Toolkit on working to become a dementia-friendly organisation.

Canadian Professional Sales Association. (February, 2018). How much easier is it to retain a client than gain a new one?

Public Health Agency of Canada. (2019). A dementia strategy for Canada: Together we aspire.