According to psychologists, one of the foremost problems of Alzheimer’s patients concerns their work. The afflicted person worries about how he or she should continue his or her career while battling a progressive brain disorder. Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can bring about tumultuous changes to the patient’s life, including his or her employment status.
Given that there are multiple nongenetic risk factors for late-onset Alzheimer’s — including age, sex (females are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s), vascular health, and several lifestyle factors — many researchers have likened Alzheimer’s to other diseases that have multiple causes, and are thus unlikely to have a single cure, such as heart disease. — Michelle Braun Ph.D., ABPP-CN
There might be endless questions running in your mind if you are in this situation – from whether you can continue to work for your employer to what kind of adjustments should you and your employer apply to make this work. Below is some advice on how to go about with work even if you have Alzheimer’s.
Am I Allowed To Keep My Job?
Yes, you are allowed to keep your job. It is not necessary to quit even if you are still in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. If you feel that going to work can contribute to the betterment of your emotional and physical wellbeing, then continue with your role.
The law supports your rights. There are different kinds of statutes around the world which protect those diagnosed with this. Some examples include the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland, The Equality Act of 2010 in Wales, Scotland, and England, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the United States.
These laws almost say the same thing – that employers need to acknowledge reasonable workplace adjustments to those people with disorders so that it will be more relaxed and more comfortable for them to do their jobs. These adjustments can be in the form of moving them to a quieter working area and giving them the option to work at home on some days.
At the same time, the laws above also say that employers must not fire a person if their violations are because of their disorder. However, employers can fire their employees if they were not able to produce expected output after implementing the adjustments.
Lastly, the laws also protect you from any discrimination if you are still looking for a job — no need to be worried about not getting hired because of your disorder.
Informing Your Employer
Some people might find it tempting to keep the diagnosis to themselves. However, the best way to approach this is to be proactive with your employer. Do not wait until your job performance suffers, which might lead to some disciplinary cases against you. The tendency is that you will not be protected by the laws above due to the failure to disclose this to your employer.
“There is no point in keeping it a secret; otherwise, colleagues will only make up their own stories of why you’re struggling and may be less supportive. Once people understand why something is happening, you’ll be surprised how supportive and helpful those around you can be, just like my wonderful team,” shares Wendy Mitchell, a 58-year old employee diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s.
Scientists think there are several types of protein deposits that cause the degradation of brain cells, leading to the progressively more serious problems with memory, learning, mood, and behavior– the hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer’s. — Michael J Breus Ph.D.
Remember, you should also be open when it comes to approaching your employer. Not everyone has direct experience with employees having Alzheimer’s. Hence, make sure that you explain what Alzheimer’s is in general, what your current situation is and how it is affecting you, and possible areas in which the company can help.
Managing Your Role
Once you have stated your case to your employer, they will most likely ask what kinds of adjustments you will be needing. There are no specific actions for this. It will depend on your situation. Some of the modifications these individuals make include the following:
- Asking for a flexible working schedule (hence, the workload is more output-based)
- Transferring to a less demanding role
- Requesting to change working environments by transferring to a more silent room or area
- Simplifying the daily schedule
Alzheimer’s is a frightening and challenging disease, and the news that lifestyle factors play a significant role offers hope to reduce human suffering. — Mylea Charvat, Ph.D.
It is critical for you to know which kinds of situations you are more comfortable with. Do not request something that you are not yet sure of so that it won’t put too much hassle on the side of your employers.
If you are not yet confident with regards to the knowledge of your case, it is best if you keep on educating yourself. There are various resources out there, which will not only tackle the ins and outs of your disorder but will also give you advice on how you can combine Alzheimer’s with your employment.