Cognitive impairment in the workplace

Compassionate approaches for a hidden but growing concern

Due to the aging of the U.S. population, rates of cognitive impairment and dementia in the workplace are on the rise. This creates challenges for employers, many of whom may not know how to best support employees who are experiencing symptoms of cognitive impairment. Conversely, employees may be hesitant to share with their employer the challenges that they’re experiencing.


Symptoms begin gradually and are often acknowledged first at work. Diagnosis may be difficult in younger people, since the majority of individuals diagnosed with cognitive impairment are 65 or older. Nevertheless, most persons living with dementia never tell their employer of their cognitive concerns due to stigma or fear of losing their job, and most employers have no policies or education on dementia.


Declining performance can wrongly be blamed on depression, substance use, stress or other issues, and many workers are demoted or fired. A supportive company culture increases the chances that a worker will disclose cognitive concerns, allowing critical conversations to occur. Providing accommodations for employees who wish to keep working and are able to, based on job responsibilities and safety, can retain historical knowledge, preserve workplace teams, and create a positive work culture where employees feel safe acknowledging health problems. Workplace awareness, compassion and policies regarding dementia as a disability can therefore protect and support employees and businesses alike. Overall, companies need to create and foster a dementia-friendly workplace.


The purpose of this paper is to begin a conversation by discussing the following:


  • A brief overview of dementia
  • It’s symptoms, diagnosis and potential impacts on the workplace
  • Ways in which workplaces can prepare for an increasing number of employees facing cognitive impairment and dementia
  • A list of accommodations that can be tailored to workers’ changing capacities
  • Efforts that corporate America should consider engaging in to foster the development of a more dementia-friendly society
  • Evaluating emerging trends in workplace mental health solutions
  • Toward the future of sustainable workplaces

Read the full paper

Read our paper to begin a conversation about how workplace awareness, compassion and policies can protect and support employees and businesses alike.

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