Employees with Dementia?

As baby boomers age — and economic upheaval keeps people in the workforce longer — the issue of how to deal with employees with dementia and cognitive impairment will continue to be kicked around the nation’s courtrooms and boardrooms.

Do you have a loved one with dementia? If the statistics hold, many more of us will have loved ones with dementia in the future. Unfortunately, with workers (who still have employment) staying on the job well into retirement, that means we will have many co-workers with dementia, too. A recent story out of DeKalb County (i.e., Atlanta) illustrates this coming trend.

Meet Linda Carter, the Superior Court clerk of DeKalb County. At age 59, Linda suffers from early onset Alzheimer’s. Her condition was a secret held between Linda and a helpful confidant in the court office. This confidant helped Linda perform her duties and remain employed. Obviously, such an effort is not sustainable. Recently, their secret was revealed when Linda was offered a routine form to sign. In reality, the form was a letter of resignation prepared for her. She signed it.

Linda wants her job back. She sued the court to reinstate her post, once it became clear what had transpired. Now, a quagmire has developed as other employees have deemed her mentally unfit to return to her post.  

While this is a rather novel case (especially arising in the context of a courthouse), it is illustrative of a growing problem in the workplace – employees who have Alzheimer’s or dementia. Alzheimer’s patients oftentimes will go to great lengths to hide their condition. This, in turn, puts an undue burden on others to recognize and properly deal with the situation. After all, those afflicted with the impairment aren’t without rights and “reasonable accommodations” ought to be made.

As an employee, it’s important to know your abilities and how you are performing. Similarly, as a fellow employee it’s important to understand your co-workers and deal with the situation honestly. Regardless, these types of cases will only increase as statistics rarely lie.

Reference: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (October 1, 2011) “Challenges of an aging workforce”

 

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