Why does dementia matter to business?

Dementia creates a huge cost for US business.

This comes in the form of a gradual decline in productivity, early retirements, workers leaving to care for their loved ones, and eventually insurance costs for care.  It is a national problem that needs resolution.

Dementia is various things, but one easy descriptionis that it is a progressive diminishing of the brain’s cognitive functions.  That means that practically, if you have dementia, you will gradually lose the ability to make complex judgments or certain kinds of decisions.  You might lose the ability to manage your money, or drive the car.

These changes are gradual, and usually fairly slowly developing.  So, you might have episodes for years that are frustrating but not a problem.  Then, sometimes as a surprise, you can’t function like you used to.

Why does that matter?

If you are a younger worker, you might lose productivity or efficiency.  If you are an older worker, you might need accomodations.  Or, you might need to retire sooner than you had hoped.  This can affect you, your co-workers, your company, and even the community.  We are not talking about the cost of care … that is further down the timeline.  But, studies show that in 2010 distracted workers cost the national industry in the US alone over $650Billion a year.  That was back in 2010, according to a business journal.  Imagine what it is today, and what just a few minutes of confusion or having to repeat things can do.

Early retirements are the next factor.  Workers are retiring earlier than usual when dementia is involved.  And it isn’t just here in the US… it is a global issue.  In the UK, “Early retirement of those diagnosed with dementia is estimated to cost businesses a further £627m a year” (see this article)

Finally, workers often leave to care for their loved ones.  This can reduce the workforce and coast companies in terms of retraining, disruptions, and overall corporate health costs.

How many people are affected?

A poll, “commissioned by Workplace Options in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association, showed that nearly 70% of those who work or worked while providing care had to modify their schedules. They went in late, left early or took time off during the day.

Other findings:

  • 32% had to take a leave of absence.
  • 26% changed jobs for a less demanding role.
  • 23% had to go from working full time to part time.
  • 20% said their work performance suffered to the point of possible dismissal.
  • 24% had to give up working entirely.

Other issues that come up while being a working caretaker are physical exhaustion and psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. For some, it amounts to a second job.”  (See the article)

What can we do?

As business owners, we need to adapt the way we work to accommodate people who need to care for others.  We need to understand what our people need for their own health.  And, we need plans that appropriately and legally adjust our practices and procedures.

It is a big task, and growing every day.

You can help by getting behind initiatives to study dementia, by taking care of yourself, and working to support your co-workers and family.  Together, we can adapt while we wait for the cure.

 

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