I kid (well, sort of), but memory loss is getting to be no laughing matter these days. I don’t mean the many times we all have forgetful moments or the normal part of the aging process, but I’m talking about Alzheimers and Dementia disorders that are becoming more and more prevalent in our aging society. According to the Alzheimers Association, by 2025 the number of Alzheimer and dementia patients is estimated to be 7.1 million – a 40% increase in today’s number of approximately 5 million.
So, what does this have to do with worker’s comp? Well, for one thing, as we have been addressing in several of our previous emails, we do have an aging workforce. These types of memory disorders often go undiagnosed for some time and the Alzheimers Association estimates that about 11 percent of persons over 65 have some sort of dementia-type disorder going on (read this interesting article regarding this information: https://ww3.workcompcentral.com/depaolo/index/post/8799029617947437459).
As the above-referenced article mentions, there are 2 aspects of this problem that affect our workforce: 1) the ones afflicted who are working and 2) the ones who serve as caregivers, either as part of their job or as part of their personal life. For the ones working, concerns about disorientation, tripping or falling can lead to questions of an accident vs. a more serious problem of memory loss/dementia. Obviously, dementia is not generally a compensable condition (unless it resulted from a head/brain injury at work), but it is certainly a concern for our aging workers.
Dementia is not always an “old age” disease, either, so, discrimination against hiring older workers is not the solution, nor is singling out older workers or jumping to the conclusion that they must be suffering from dementia when a problem is observed.
What is paramount is keeping all employees safe in the workplace. When problems are observed, get involved early and have that ADA conversation with them. Consider a Fit for Duty test if you are concerned about their physical safety in performing their job duties.
For more information about Fit for Duty, Physical Ability tests, Return to Work tests or post offer employment testing, contact Job Ready Services: 919-256-1400. Our website is: www.jobreadyservices.com.
Submitted by: Michelle Morgan, Job Ready Services