Today, I’m pleased to share a guest post by Derek Fisher. In this piece, Derek discusses dementia in the workplace and the need to help businesses become dementia friendly. With people like Norman McNamara leading the charge, I suspect the UK may be doing a better job of reducing the stigma than we are in the States. Even so, I think we can agree there’s a lot more work to be done worldwide.
Early diagnosis is encouraged for several reasons:
- Symptoms may be due to a treatable condition, such as an infection, dehydration, or a vitamin B deficiency.
- Early diagnosis allows time to plan for the future, get financial and legal paperwork in order, and document long-term care and end of life wishes.
- While we’d like to hope we would make appropriate lifestyle changes long before diagnosis, that isn’t necessarily the case. Early diagnosis provides time to make those changes in hopes of slowing progression.
- The earlier one knows, the sooner he or she can consider participation in a clinical trial.
- The person diagnosed – and his or her caregiver – can reach out for support sooner rather than later.
On the flip side, there is great fear around the idea of early diagnosis. Insurability is a concern and those still working face a significant fear of job loss. While an employer can’t use a dementia diagnosis as cause for dismissal, could it provoke them to find other things to support termination?
We’d like to believe compassion and understanding would take precedence, but the reality is, discrimination exists. Many people still don’t feel safe disclosing a dementia diagnosis, particularly the workplace.
Take a look at Derek’s thoughts on the subject, and share your own by leaving a comment. I’d love to hear what others think.
We are all human aren’t we?
by Derek Fisher
I am a human being. I laugh, I cry, I walk and run, I work and I play. I eat, I drink, I sleep and I am alive. But…….I make mistakes, and as a human I am prone to forget things, just like everyone else. I and all the rest of us are not machines.
I make mistakes and am prone to forgetting things at home and at work, and I just rectify them in seconds and get on with the next item. We all do the same and we all forget these minor errors in seconds. Some mistakes are major and may take some time to rectify but that’s okay, because we are humans and not machines.
At home we can get away with repetitive errors and forgetfulness and just brush them off. But what if these errors were constantly repeated daily? Would we not start to worry and show concern? Would our family members not have the same concerns? If that happens, what do we do?
If a machine makes a mistake, we get if fixed. The machine has no choice because we decide to do the fixing. Who decides for us though? We have to. We may simply have a UTI that antibiotics can fix in a few days, and hey, presto, we are back to normal. We are, after all, humans and not machines, and even machines can be fixed when they go wrong and make mistakes.
But… What if the mistakes, errors, and memory problems are repetitive at work and your boss calls you in to explain. Then what?
Firstly, we must not be afraid to admit there may possibly be the chance that we have early signs of dementia. The only way to find out is to get a diagnosis one way or the other. If a machine breaks down, we take it to get repaired; we don’t put that off so why should we do it to ourselves.
Any decent boss should be supportive and encourage you to go to the doctor without work-related pressure. You may have to do different duties for a while, but so what? That’s no big deal. It may also be a case that meds can help and you can carry on as normal.
What I am saying here is this: like a machine we can go wrong, and like a machine we can be fixed. Don’t be afraid to face reality one way or the other. Face your boss and be truthful. Put your cards on the table. It would be terrible of him or her not to help and show sympathy. But it goes deeper than that. We need to reach all businesses large and small and educate them on spotting early signs of dementia. We need to show them how they can help.
Central governments need to be told, and more money must be spent on education and reaching those who just simply don’t know about dementia. I note with much happiness that Virgin Atlantic is going to teach staff how to look after passengers who have dementia. I only hope that other companies follow suit, not only with customers but with staff as well.
So to sum up… Don’t be afraid to admit to making mistakes and forgetting things. WE ARE ALL HUMAN.
Don’t be afraid to speak to someone at work about any possible concerns. THEY TOO ARE HUMAN.
Don’t be afraid to get a diagnosis. YOU ARE NOT A MACHINE, YOU ARE HUMAN.
Take control of your own destiny.
So that’s it from mee. Did I just make a misstake …..well after all I’M ONLY HUMAN.
Derek Fisher developed an interest in dementia while working at a community center serving individuals in the early stages of the disease. He subsequently worked in social care, with dementia being his specialty. Derek has been involved in dementia care for over 13 years. He is married and lives in Essex, just outside of London, England.