Working

Getting a diagnosis of dementia does not mean you need to immediately give up work.

It’s good to keep working for as long as you want, and are able to, because not only does work keep you connected to other people, it also exercises the brain.

Nobody can predict how long they will be able to keep working. Dementia affects everyone differently. It also depends on the work you do. Earlier diagnosis and medication are helping more people with dementia stay in work for longer.

Continuing to work

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 have:

  • 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
  • lost confidence in your work abilities
  • felt uncertain about making important decisions

The key is to take control of what’s happening to you early, to plan, and to be realistic. Seek guidance and support from your employer, GP, or your local Alzheimers organisation.

Talking about your diagnosis

It’s a good idea to talk to your employer about your diagnosis. This is a very big step for most people, so think about what to say and how to say it. Using a friend or family/whānau member for a rehearsal can be very useful.

You might want to take someone with you to help explain dementia and what it means for you.

Some tips for talking to your employer:

  • Think about what they will want/need to know and come prepared
  • Discuss the possibility of changing aspects of your job so you can continue to work successfully – what parts of your job could you still do?
  • Think about who else in your workplace needs to know about your diagnosis. This might include clients as well as coworkers. It can be helpful to have one or two trusted people to support you at work.
  • Start planning for your future – think about at what point you will decide the time is right to leave work.

Managing changes

Sometimes simple coping strategies or changes in the environment can help you at work. Like anyone else with a chronic medical condition, you have a right to special consideration at work.

Think about what might help you keep working as long as you can. Are there memory aids or other techniques or tools you could use? Sometimes just reducing your working hours can help a lot, especially if it reduces stress.

Leaving work

At some point you will need to stop working. If you haven’t already planned for when that day might be, try not to make a hurried or rushed decision. Discuss it with your family/whānau – after all, any decisions you make affects them too.

Take the time to make sure you know all about your rights and benefits. This can be a very complex area, so make sure you get good advice. Before you decide to leave work, find out about:

  • your superannuation policy and entitlements
  • sick leave or long-service leave entitlements
  • government benefits you may be entitled to, such as National Superannuation, disability or sickness benefits
  • income protection insurance or other insurances that may have a disability component. 

Remember, like all aspects of living with dementia, having to leave work is no reflection on you – it’s about the dementia. 


Booklet: Living well with dementia
A guide for people diagnosed with dementia

This booklet is written for people who have been diagnosed with dementia to give you information and to help you continue to live well. 

The booklet suggests ways to look after yourself including how to adjust to change and managing your day, as well as working, driving, keeping involved and active and planning for the future. 

Click here to download the booklet (PDF).