Getting any diagnosis can be life-changing, especially when it’s as significant a condition as dementia. Of course, certain parts of your life will change, including your professional goals. But, despite this, you don’t have to immediately throw all you’ve worked for to the wind—you can keep working your dream job with limited change. With the support of your colleagues and supervisors and plenty of communication on your part, you can utterly thrive in your field despite dementia.
Let yourself come to terms with the news.
First and foremost, before you even think about talking to your employer about your dementia diagnosis, it’s crucial that you come to terms with it yourself, at least to some degree. Whether your condition is labeled senile dementia in a broad sense or a more specific condition, like Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia (caused by strokes or similar vascular ailments), you’ll have new symptoms to deal with, many of which can be scary. No matter your particular type of dementia, the symptoms of senility range from forgetfulness or memory problems, personality changes, and cognitive decline to stooped posture, decreased muscle strength and increased stiffness of the joints. Everyone expects a bit of discomfort as they approach old age, but it’s a whole new world, so to speak, when occasional memory loss, body ache, or cognitive impairment appear as symptoms of dementia.
Know your legal rights.
Once you‘ve acknowledged your dementia diagnosis, understood the symptoms that come with your particular form of dementia, and worked with your caregivers to make progress in your efforts at maintaining cognition and overall wellness, it’s essential that you learn your legal rights when it comes to this diagnosis, particularly in the workplace. In the United States, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere, laws and regulations are in place to protect both the disabled and older adults from discrimination and human rights violations. Experts like Malliha Wilson work tirelessly to ensure that health conditions, from dementia to high blood pressure, can’t be used as disciplinary grounds for termination.
Understand your limitations.
The law protects workers like you from being discriminated against in the workplace and elsewhere, and works to ensure that the workplace is accessible to those with disabilities. However, this doesn’t mean that working with dementia won’t come with its share of challenges. In order to approach your employer with the news of your diagnosis and any accommodation requests you may want to make, you must figure out how dementia may affect you in the workplace, both now and with the progression of the disease over time.
Work toward accessible accommodations.
Armed with the knowledge of what limits and challenges may stand in your way, you’ll be better prepared to ask for reasonable accommodations in the workplace. In the United States, these are legislated by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and may include flexible work schedules, alternative presentations of materials, and other adjustments that allow you to perform your role regardless of disability and the limitations that may otherwise be come with it.
When you’re diagnosed with dementia or a similar condition, there’s so much to take in that it can easily feel overwhelming even without cognitive impairment. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t perform your professional duties for the foreseeable future, though. Understand your condition, legal rights, and workplace needs before sitting down with your employer, and you can ensure that you’re getting the accommodations you need to continue working with dementia. You may need to approach your duties differently than another person would, but these types of differences make humanity what it is—and they certainly don’t make you any less of an incredible employee.