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Working while living with dementia

Getting a diagnosis of dementia while still of working age can be difficult to accept. You may still want or need to continue working, whether it’s for financial reasons or because you enjoy it.

If you have been diagnosed with dementia and are still working, you may need to start making decisions about changing how you work. It’s possible the symptoms of your condition have already started affecting your work.

You may experience:

  • difficulty communicating your thoughts to colleagues or clients
  • trouble concentrating for as long as you used to
  • forgotten meetings or appointments
  • difficulty managing several tasks at one time
  • problems with larger groups, so you prefer to work alone
  • a lost confidence in your work abilities
  • feel uncertain about making important decisions

The key is to take control of what your experiencing early on so that you can plan for the future.


Talking about your dementia diagnosis

After a dementia diagnosis, it’s best to talk to your employer and tell them if you’d like to continue working. Some people can feel anxious about telling their employer, but there can be many benefits. By informing your workplace, you will be able to access support that could help make work more manageable.

Whether or not you tell your other colleagues that you have dementia is always your choice. There’s no rush to make a decision, so take your time and consider asking your employer for advice.


Changes to your role to help you work with dementia

If you decide to continue working, think about whether making changes to your role could help you do your job better.

Some adjustments that people living with dementia make to their roles include:

  • Changing your work schedule to give you time to rest if you are tired
  • Simplifying your schedule and opting out of less important meetings
  • Requesting to be moved to a quieter area with less distraction
  • Using technology or calendars to remind you of meetings and deadlines
  • Moving to a less senior or demanding role.

As dementia is a progressive condition, there will likely come a time when continuing to work is no longer possible. There are many reasons why people have to give up work – it is not a failure to have a condition that makes it impossible to continue working.


Find Local Help - Dementia New Zealand Network