Dementia can affect any workplace – but if and when it does, how likely are employers and employees to respond in the right way? Since joining our Early Stage Dementia team in April Doug Anthoney has been working to ensure Scotland’s workplaces are dementia aware. Here’s the story so far.
“If one of your employees had dementia – would they tell you?” That’s the question we posed to the twenty employers taking part in a dementia awareness training taster day in May. Only a handful were able to say “yes”. This needs to change.
The case for putting dementia on the workplace agenda is clear. Our population is ageing, state pension age is rising, and employers no longer have the power to force retirement at age 65. Which means that more of us will experience the first symptoms of dementia at work, and more of us will be juggling work with caring for someone who has dementia. In dementia unaware workplaces employees affected by the condition are more likely to be shown the door than compassion, and employers run increased risks: of quality and safety problems; legal non-compliance; and needlessly lost staff skills and experience.
Raising awareness in workplaces wasn’t in our original Early Stage Dementia project plan. But calls to Silver Line Scotland and comments by employers to our Now & Next pre-retirement training team highlighted a need and a demand. We were delighted when project funder Life Changes Trust accepted our case for an additional focus on workplaces.
My first task was to research the links between dementia and employment matters. Two things helped immensely: new findings on Dementia and the Workplace from the University of the West of Scotland and Heriot Watt University, and training materials already designed for raising the dementia awareness of Age Scotland member groups. Given this head start I was able to offer two half-day training workshops from late May: a general dementia awareness session for everyone in the workplace; and a specialist session for human resources staff and managers. So far I’ve delivered workshops to employers including Stirling Council, HM Courts and Tribunals Service, SSE, Horsecross, Cohesion Medical and Glasgow Caledonian University, with really positive feedback.
I’ve also prepared five dementia aware tips for employers and a workplace dementia awareness display kit comprising display boards and flyers. This is free for employers that book our workplace training, and we’ll be handing out kits to trade union reps at a conference we’re planning jointly with STUC and Alzheimer Scotland at the end of September. Also in the pipeline is an Age Scotland guide to dementia in the workplace, which will be free to training participants. We’d also like to develop video resources in which people living with dementia explain to employers what support would have helped them.