If you are still working, memory loss and other symptoms of MCI or dementia will eventually affect your work. You may not feel ready for retirement, but your diagnosis will eventually make your job too difficult to do. While some people, particularly those with MCI, can continue to work successfully for some time after they are diagnosed, those with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or another dementia may have problems sooner.
What are some of the ways that dementia could interfere with my work?
You may find that you have trouble concentrating. You may forget meetings and appointments, or show up at the wrong times. You may not be able to retain details or master new tasks. You may find it difficult to multi-task. You may feel uncertain about making complex decisions. Keep in mind that each person will experience these shortcomings differently depending on their diagnosis and job duties.
How much longer can I hold on to my job?
The answer to this question is different for everyone. It depends on the degree of your impairment, the demands of the job, the tolerance of your employer, and the acceptance of your co-workers. You should also consider the financial impact of giving up your job. It’s important to review all options that may be available to you (i.e., taking disability, early retirement, severance pay, etc.). It also may be helpful to discuss your condition and how it could affect your job performance with your physician.
Should I tell my employer and coworkers about my condition?
Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut correct answer to this question. Who you tell depends on a number of factors. Has your employer spoken to you about changes in your work performance? Is your boss someone who could be understanding of your situation? Could you rely on your employer to assess, in an impartial and fair way, your abilities to continue working? Would your coworkers be able to provide the necessary support you may need to carry out your job duties? Answering these and other questions that come to mind may help to guide you in making your decision.
What if I’m self-employed?
If you are self-employed, you obviously will not have to be concerned with telling your employer. However, you will have to be the one to determine when it’s time to stop working. It’s not unusual for a person with early-stage memory loss to have difficulty recognizing when the symptoms of dementia are interfering with job performance. As a result, this could affect your ability to make the right decision about when it’s time to leave.
So, how will you make that decision? Asking for feedback from family members, friends or trusted clients can sometimes be helpful. If you would like to discuss your situation with an Early Stage Services professional who can assist you in making the best choice, please call 703.766.9006.
Care Partner Tip
This can often be an emotional, highly-charged topic of discussion. Keep in mind that for most of us our work defines who we are and how we are valued. Loss of employment, particularly for people with early-onset dementia, can be especially devastating. Be sure to provide lots of emotional support during this time, and reassure them that they’re accepted for who they are and not solely for what they can do.
Many people with mild symptoms of dementia live alone and function well. At some point, however, advancing symptoms can lead to safety problems and other risks to your quality of life. It will become necessary for you to either have help in your home or move to a new residence that provides assistance. Consider the following if you live alone or are alone during the day due to a working care partner:
Living alone puts you at risk for social isolation. This may also be the case if you are at home alone all day while your care partner is at work. It may be harder to keep track of appointments on your calendar or to do activities you previously enjoyed with others. Call us at 703.766.9006 to learn more about what programs, activities and services are available so you can maintain independence while being realistic about safety and symptom management.
Written by Lisa Snyder, LCSW, and reprinted with permission from Perspectives – A Newsletter for Individuals with Alzheimer’s or a Related Disorder. Published by the Shiley-Marcos Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, University of California, San Diego. Available free of charge by email. Contact Lisa Snyder at firstname.lastname@example.org to subscribe.
For some of you, one of the most traumatic issues you will have to consider is giving up driving. Although you may be able to drive safely for a time, you will eventually have to turn in your keys. As the disease progresses, your hand-eye coordination suffers, your perception changes and your reaction time becomes slower. Continuing to drive puts not only you but other people at risk as well. You may have been a great driver all your life and you may never have had an accident or even gotten a ticket, but you now have dementia and that makes a difference!
Some of the warning signs that your driving may no longer be safe for yourself or others are:
Because there is no definitive test to determine when a driver with early dementia is unsafe, family members or friends are often in the best position to detect changes in your driving. Although it may be hard to hear and accept what they have to say at times, their primary concern is for your safety and the safety of others. Talking openly at this early stage will help everyone to plan for that time when you’re no longer able to drive. In the meantime, if you have received a diagnosis and are still driving it’s probably a good idea to take a driver’s test each year to make sure that you are still a responsible safe driver.
Care Partner Tip
For most people, driving represents independence and freedom. Try to imagine what your life would be like if you were told you could no longer drive. It’s a very personal and emotional issue. Talk openly about your concerns and encourage the person you’re caring for to do the same, knowing that it’s not an easy situation to resolve. To learn more about this issue, click here.
To speak with someone about Early Stage Services, please call 703.766.9006.
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