Relationships at work

If you are diagnosed with dementia, concerned you may have dementia, or caring for someone with dementia, you may be worried about how this will affect you and your job. We will help you access information to explore your options and make informed decisions


Relationships at work

How relationships at work can help

If you’re unsure about whether to share your experience with dementia with one or more of your co-workers, then you’re not alone. According to a 2017 survey on attitudes toward dementia in Canada, 67% of Canadians would feel uncomfortable disclosing their dementia diagnosis to work colleagues.

Up until recent years, dementia has been a relatively hidden issue in society and, in many cases, continues to be a hidden issue in the workplace. This is often because people feel alone in their journey. They are worried that other people won’t relate to them or will treat them differently.

The reality is that 1 in 3 Albertans are impacted by dementia - they are either living with dementia or have experience caring for someone with dementia. This means that more than 30% of Albertans have some experience with dementia, and many are likely to relate to and empathize with others’ experiences.

While you may need to share medical information related to your job responsibilities and any requests for workplace accommodations with your employer, you have no obligation to share information with your co-workers. This being said, there can be benefits to talking to your work colleagues. Trusted colleagues can:

  • Provide you support, reminders, encouragement, or just an ear to listen when you encounter challenges. 
  • Help you recognize if and how your experience living with dementia or as a care partner is affecting your work performance.
  • Work with you and your employer to identify creative, helpful, and reasonable workplace accommodations (e.g., job sharing, swapping schedules, covering hours during appointments, offering reminders).
  • Help to include you in workplace and social activities, as desired, during work hours and outside of them.
  • Help other colleagues learn about the impacts of dementia and how to support you, according to your needs, along the way.
  • Model the way for other colleagues in how to support you, according to your needs.

Guidance to talk to your co-workers

If you are considering talking to your co-workers about your experience with dementia, consider:

  • Some relationships are more open and supportive than others - start by talking to the people you trust and feel most comfortable sharing with.
  • You decide how much information to share, when to share, and who to share it with.
  • Be honest about your feelings and experience, and let your colleagues know what you are seeking from them. It’s okay to seek confidentiality from your colleagues.
  • It’s important to explicitly ask for your colleagues to grant you confidentiality, and okay to feel disappointed or angry if they will not.
  • Ask someone that you’ve already talked to about your challenges to be present when you speak with your colleagues. You can share information with your supervisor and ask if they will relay it to your colleagues.
  • Remember that everyone will respond to your experience differently. Some people may need more time to process what you share. Other people may be trying to understand how your experience fits with their understanding of dementia. Others yet may be overly helpful and involved as they seek ways to support you and show you they care.
  • Be prepared to answer questions - this is how your colleagues can learn more about you and your experience and be able to support you in a positive way.

Support outside the workplace