Signs of dementia
Signs of dementia
Memory challenges and struggles at work can be warning signs for dementia, and people living with dementia often say their first symptoms of dementia appeared while they were at work.
An employee showing signs of dementia may forget meetings or appointments, lose track of time, misplace things, struggle to find words, and/or exhibit mood changes.
Unfortunately, these behaviours can diminish workplace productivity and affect workplace relationships, and can be mistaken as performance issues. They may also be interpreted as signs of stress or depression, or dismissed as part of aging in the workplace. Rather than dismiss experiences or behaviours that are concerning or out of the ordinary, it is important to ask your employee how they are feeling and if they are experiencing any challenges. You can talk to your employee about what you are noticing and encourage them to consult a doctor.
For more information, review our guidance on talking to an employee with signs of dementia.
Warning signs of dementia
Up to 10 per cent of all cases of dementia start before age 65. In Alberta, there are over 4,800 younger Albertans - people between the ages of 40 and 65 - diagnosed with dementia. A few of the challenges with receiving a dementia diagnosis are there are many warning signs, the warning signs don’t present the same for everyone, and there is no one specific test to identify dementia. This makes it important for you to know the warning signs of dementia and encourage employees exhibiting one or more of the below warning signs to consult a doctor.
You may notice that your employee is forgetting appointments, to-do items, people’s names, or common words. You may also notice that they struggle - more than would be typical - to learn new things or retain new information.
You may notice that your employee is missing steps or encountering confusion while completing a familiar task, routine, or procedure. This could include activities like operating equipment, entering data, using a tool or technology, or any other type of action that is typically part of their job.
You may notice that your employee struggles to find common words or uses words that don’t make sense in the sentence or conversation.
You may notice your employee loses track of time and misses meetings, deadlines, and other time-based standards, struggles to identify the day of the week, or loses their way, gets turned around, or forgets where they are in familiar buildings and other locations.
You may notice your employee uncharacteristically puts themself or others at risk by saying or doing things that affect physical or physiological safety, health, and wellbeing. This can include walking into or even creating hazardous conditions, making verbal outbursts, or overlooking safety protocols.
You may notice your employee struggles with numbers, common or easily understood symbols, or patterns and sequences familiar to their job or work environment.
You may notice your employee misplaces items required for their work or personal effects, or puts them in places where they don’t belong. You may also notice your employee asking you where to find items that they commonly use, and may ask this several times in a day or short period of time.
You may notice your employee exhibits severe changes in their mood and behaviours. Other employees may start to experience and identify uncharacteristic friction or relationship challenges with your employee as a result of these changes.
You may notice your employee exhibits uncharacteristic and unexplainable behaviours that are not natural or usual to their character or personality.
You may notice that your employee uncharacteristically lacks motivation to complete their work, interest in topics or activities that typically keep them engaged or bring them joy, or a desire to engage with their colleagues or participate in mandatory or optional workplace activities.
How to get tested for dementia
If you want to learn more about how dementia is diagnosed and access resources to share with an employee, visit the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories’ how to get tested for dementia webpage for information and a toolkit.
The difference between age-related memory loss and dementia
While it’s true that memory challenges increase with age, memory loss from dementia is different and more likely to affect employees’ abilities to carry out their jobs.
Memory loss associated with ageing can create workplace challenges; however, it should not disrupt your employees’ ability to:
- Complete tasks, follow procedures, and adhere to the requirements of the job.
- Learn and remember new things.
- Build and maintain healthy relationships.
If you notice behaviours that make it difficult for your employee to carry out their job functions or are creating performance issues, talk to them about what you are noticing and encourage them to consult a doctor. A doctor can refer them for an assessment to determine the cause of their challenges.