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How Can You Make Your Workplace Dementia-Friendly?

Are you wondering how to make your workplace dementia friendly? If so, then you’re already on the right track towards implementing greater inclusivity within your business and improving your appeal as an employer.

When people imagine dementia, they often picture it as a disease which affects people of retirement age. However, you may be surprised to know that 70,800 people under the age of 65 are currently living with dementia in the UK.

For this reason, making sure that a workplace is a dementia friendly environment is one of the keys to ensuring employee well-being and comfort.

So, how do you go about making your workplace dementia friendly?

Creating a dementia-friendly environment in the workplace

Firstly, assess why it is that you are making this move? Is it to improve employee understanding, inclusivity and acceptance in the workplace, or is it in response to the knowledge that one of your employees has recently been diagnosed with dementia?

In the case of the latter, then the utmost sensitivity, consideration and care should be taken towards assisting the individual who is living with dementia, first and foremost. They may not wish for others to know that they are living with dementia, so it is vital that you consult them on how to make the sort of changes which they are comfortable with.

Employer workplace adjustments for people living with dementia

In this article, we consider the practical adjustments that can be made within the workplace to make things easier for people who are living with dementia and enable them to remain in the workplace. Consider the following tips for creating a dementia friendly workplace:

  • Ensuring everyone is aware of and understands dementia and can practice patience when working alongside someone who is living with dementia.

  • Rethink your workspaces.

  • Clear labelling should be introduced especially at toilets and exits and in places where people may need to find their way around the building.

  • Assistive technology, such as voice activated software and visual aids may be useful.

  • Flooring should be soundproof, so that footfall isn’t loud. The flooring should also be non-reflective, not slippery and have all trip hazards removed. In addition, ‘busy’ patterned carpets can also be an issue.

  • Signage should be clear and bold. The colour of the wording should contrast with the sign and then also with the wall on which the sign is to be placed, so that the differentiation between the three can easily be identified.

  • If replacing signs completely isn’t within your budget, then consider the addition of pictorial signs to go along those written in words.

  • Glass doors should clearly be marked in order to avoid accidents.

  • Entrances and exits should be well lit and clearly marked with ‘Way Out’ signs.

  • Important areas should be well lit, however try to make the most of natural light and avoid harsh, glaring or flickering lighting.

  • Create a quiet area in your dementia friendly workplace where someone living with dementia can take time out if they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

  • Plan and implement dementia friendly workplace meeting spaces.

  • Introduce a clear labelling system to enable people living with dementia to organise their work.

  • Allow extra time for workplace training and present information in multiple ways to make it easier to digest, for example written, visual and verbal.

  • Ensure the person living with dementia feels safe, secure and comfortable both at work and in speaking to their line manager.

How to support colleagues living with dementia

When working with someone who you believe or know to be living with dementia, there are several approaches which you can take to make things for them as comfortable as possible and enable them to keep doing their job productively and for as long as possible.

Some of the key things to consider when helping to make a space more comfortable for your colleague who has dementia and creating a dementia friendly workplace are as follows:

  • Aim to keep anxiety and noise levels low

  • Show that you understand dementia, by learning about it and being patient and understanding

  • Offer a friendly face and a listening ear

  • Keep learning about dementia

Another way to support a colleague who is living with dementia in the workplace is by becoming their workplace advocate. This means that you learn about dementia and the best ways to provide help and support for the person who is living with it. This help and support can include helping your colleague to build a one-year plan and assisting them in setting work goals. Consult with your colleague on how often they would like to check in during the day for support.

As an employer, you may wish to consider in advance whether having a dementia advocate in place before a member of your team is diagnosed with dementia could be a sensible option. A team member could undergo relevant training to ensure they are fully aware of how to spot the signs of the disease and help to support someone through their whole dementia journey.

Spotting the first signs of dementia in the workplace

While it should never be considered appropriate to suggest to someone that they may have dementia or encourage them to get assessed, there are ways to spot the first signs of dementia for the purpose of being able to offer help and support. Early signs of dementia in the workplace include the following:

  • Change in personality traits

  • Decline in interactions with staff and at meetings or during conference calls

  • Repetitive issues raised that seem to have been previously resolved

  • Problems with movement, coordination, or balance

  • Development of greater memory problems as the condition progresses

  • Visible confusion or extreme signs of distress where it appears unnecessary

In addition, it is important to be sensitive to the fact that the person living with dementia could be dealing with a great deal of worry and fear regarding what the future holds for them and their dependents, as well as financial concerns. For this reason, it is important to establish a dementia friendly workplace culture which is wholly understanding of the condition, reassuring and supportive of people living with dementia.

Changing the culture of your organisation to become a dementia friendly workplace

Often people will hide the fact that they have dementia, mainly because they are too scared to admit it to themselves, or because they are worried about the impact that revealing it might have on their career. In these cases, they may mask the symptoms, encourage others to help them mask the symptoms and internalise their problems.

By providing an understanding and caring workplace culture which has removed any stigma or prejudice surrounding dementia, people will feel more able and confident to talk to colleagues and management about the issues they are facing and put proactive plans in place to help them to cope with things. Managers should also be aware of the support that is available to employees, from a company occupational health perspective and have the ability and knowledge to signpost them to organisations which can also provide help and support.

Help for carers of people living with dementia

In addition to providing a dementia friendly workplace for people who are living with the condition, it is important to be aware of those who are caring for someone with dementia alongside their employed job role.

Unpaid carers supporting someone with dementia save the UK economy £14.6 billion a year. This will rise to £35.7 billion in 2040. However, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, approximately 61% of unpaid carers for people with dementia report that caring has had a negative impact on their health. They may be concerned about the prospect of losing their loved one, be affected by the changes in their loved one’s personality, no longer able to look after their own physical and mental health or concerned about finances.

As employers and colleagues, it is important to create a dementia friendly workplace culture where people feel able to talk about their concerns and get any help and support that they might need.

If you would like to find out more about creating a dementia friendly workplace or want to implement dementia advocate or supporter training within your business, then speak to a member of our dementia training team today by giving us a call on 01243 888691 or you can email us:

Perhaps as a business or organisation your employees would like to support our dementia support services financially through our Big Give appeal? Every donation will help us to continue to provide a range of vital dementia support services for people living with dementia and their carers and families.


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