Responding to an employee diagnosed with dementia

Responding to an employee diagnosed with dementia

If you are approached by an employee who has received a dementia diagnosis or is in the processing of being assessed for dementia, it is important to listen to what they are seeking from you, show empathy and compassion for what they are experiencing, and offer what you can as an employer.

Dementia affects everyone differently. Some employees may receive medical advice to leave the workplace or plan to leave the workplace. Other employees will want to leave the workplace to pursue other interests before their dementia progresses. Other employees yet will be able and want to continue to work, with appropriate accommodations in place.

When an employee approaches you with a dementia diagnosis or concern:

  • Ask them how they are feeling and how you can best support them.
  • Ask them to consult a doctor and, as required, provide documentation on any restrictions and limitations related to job duties and/or required workplace accommodations.
  • Ask them if they have the information that they need to determine if they can and want to continue working.
    • Inform them that their doctor can help them make a medical determination if they can continue working.
    • Inform them it is important to stay engaged with a doctor; the doctor will help them with treatment as well as provide advice on their limitations in the workplace.
    • Inform them of any employee benefits, including health and wellness benefits and retirement and financial planning, that may be available to them or offer to find out.
  • Direct the employee to the staff responsible for employment, employee accommodations, and employee benefits within your organization; these may include staff with roles in labour relations, human resources, workplace accommodations, and/or legal or be the company owner.
  • Provide the employee with contact information for community-based support and services that might be able to help them navigate their diagnosis, and any related changes; the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories is a provincial resource that any Albertan can contact for guidance and support at 1-866-950-5465.
  • Ask them when they would like to speak again, and establish a date and time to speak.
  • Offer any words of care and compassion that you are comfortable sharing.

Showing empathy and compassion, listening to learn, and taking a supportive approach are key to understanding and being able to meaningfully meet the needs of a person affected by dementia.