If you are still working, memory loss and other symptoms of MCI or dementia will eventually affect your work. You may not feel ready for retirement, but your diagnosis will eventually make your job too difficult to do. While some people, particularly those with MCI, can continue to work successfully for some time after they are diagnosed, those with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another dementia may have problems sooner.
What are some of the ways that dementia could interfere with my work?
You may find that you have trouble concentrating. You may forget meetings and appointments, or show up at the wrong times. You may not be able to retain details or master new tasks. You may find it difficult to multi-task. You may feel uncertain about making complex decisions. Keep in mind that each person will experience these shortcomings differently depending on their diagnosis and job duties.
How much longer can I hold on to my job?
The answer to this question is different for everyone. It depends on the degree of your impairment, the demands of the job, the tolerance of your employer, and the acceptance of your co-workers. You should also consider the financial impact of giving up your job. It’s important to review all options that may be available to you (i.e., taking disability, early retirement, severance pay, etc.). It also may be helpful to discuss your condition and how it could affect your job performance with your physician.
Should I tell my employer and coworkers about my condition?
Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut correct answer to this question. Who you tell depends on a number of factors. Has your employer spoken to you about changes in your work performance? Is your boss someone who could be understanding of your situation? Could you rely on your employer to assess, in an impartial and fair way, your abilities to continue working? Would your coworkers be able to provide the necessary support you may need to carry out your job duties? Answering these and other questions that come to mind may help to guide you in making your decision.
What if I’m self-employed?
If you are self-employed, you obviously will not have to be concerned with telling your employer. However, you will have to be the one to determine when it’s time to stop working. It’s not unusual for a person with early-stage memory loss to have difficulty recognizing when the symptoms of dementia are interfering with job performance. As a result, this could affect your ability to make the right decision about when it’s time to leave.
So, how will you make that decision? Asking for feedback from family members, friends or trusted clients can sometimes be helpful. You may also want to discuss your situation with our staff who can assist you in making the best choice for you.
Read Neurology Now article Dementia in the Workplace.
Care Partner Tip
This can often be an emotional, highly-charged topic of discussion. Keep in mind that for most of us our work defines who we are and how we are valued. Loss of employment, particularly for people with early-onset dementia, can be especially devastating. Be sure to provide lots of emotional support during this time, and reassure them that they’re accepted for who they are and not solely for what they can do.