brainscanNine in 10 businesses say dementia is becoming an increasing issue, and more could and should be done to address this care crisis looming over the economy, businesses leaders have been warned.

Half of the UK’s 6.5 million carers juggle work and care – and a rising number of carers are facing the challenge of combining work with supporting a loved one with dementia. The number of dementia carers alone is set to reach 850,000 by the end of the decade, according to employers’ membership forum Employers for Carers (EfC).

In addition, a survey of businesses by EfC shows 90% believe dementia is an increasingly big issue for their organisation – adding pressure on employees, causing physical and mental health problems and leading to declined productivity and a loss of valuable staff members.

Almost 70% of employers flagged a need for clearer, more accessible national information on dementia for their employees. Two thirds also wanted more practical assistance and specialist dementia care and support services to help ensure their employees are supported to stay in work.

In an accompanying survey of carers juggling work and looking after a loved one with dementia, more than half said their work was negatively affected due to their caring responsibilities:

1 in 5 saying they had cut working hours

1 in 10 having to take on a less senior role

Only 7% said caring had no impact on their capacity to work.

When asked to identify the one thing about caring that caused the most difficulties/stress at work, top of the list was ‘I cannot be sure that the person I am supporting is getting quality help at the right time’. Employees also highlighted that flexible working and/or special leave for caring would make a difference to their work and family lives.

Dementia moving centre stage

Ian Peters, chair of EfC and managing director of British Gas Residential Energy, said: “Dementia is moving centre stage for us as a business issue – with this research highlighting the striking impact on the workplace of growing numbers of colleagues who must manage the difficult balance of work alongside caring for a loved one with dementia.

“Addressing this increasingly critical issue is, however, not just about being a good employer, it is good for business – improving productivity and retention of talent in the workplace and reducing staff stress, turnover and recruitment costs. This research shows that much more must be done to improve carers’ access to support services at home and support at work, otherwise the economy and businesses will see a growing ‘brain drain’ as skilled and valued colleagues are forced to give up work to care.”

Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, added: “Without the right support, caring for a partner or parent with dementia can be exhausting, stressful and emotionally draining. Combining work and caring can leave carers feeling like they are struggling alone, unable to access support at work or at home, because of the perceived stigma which surrounds talking openly about conditions like dementia and an on-going lack of workplace recognition of and support with caring responsibilities for older loved ones. 

“Increasingly many of us will find that looking after a loved one with dementia comes at the peak of our careers. We need co-ordinated action from employers and public services to prevent the costs to both families and the economy of carers being pushed to breaking point and being forced to give up work because of a lack of support.”