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Employers urged to prepare for age-related ill health in the workplace

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Employers should do more to address the increase in age-related conditions in the workplace, specialist personal nurse advisers RedArc Nurses have warned.

An ageing workforce with individuals retiring later whilst wanting to stay active for longer, are having an impact on businesses who are witnessing an unprecedented rise in health conditions among older employees.

Louise Flowers, Director of Customer Delivery at Healthcare RM called on employers and employees alike to “seriously consider” the promotion of health and wellbeing as part of the working environment to encourage positive behaviours whilst helping staff understand the health risks individuals face as they get older.

She said: “Although it’s common knowledge that we suffer from more serious health conditions as we age, the decline in general health and fitness standards in the UK population due to lifestyle changes is likely to exacerbate the situation over time. A health and wellbeing strategy is crucial if this situation is to be tackled adequately.”

The research also found that dementia-related conditions, in particular, are on the increase among those of working age – the under 65 age group. Statistics from the Alzheimer’s Society show there are currently 40,000 Brits living with early onset dementia and who were diagnosed before they were 65.

Christine Husbands, managing director for RedArc said employers would need to “face up” to making adaptations for older workers, just as businesses had already adapted to other demographic workforce changes such as women returning to work after having children, shared paternity leave and flexible working.

She added: “A diagnosis of dementia or other age-related condition doesn’t necessarily mean an employee’s working life is immediately over but at the same time it will obviously come as quite a shock. Third-party support services offered via healthcare and group risk products can be invaluable in helping that individual navigate the NHS; arrange therapy; find relevant charities and self-help groups; as well as provide a much-needed expert ear to discuss other issues such as whether to return to work.”

Last month, HR consultancy The Clear Company urged employers to ‘learn to recognise’ the early signs of dementia and take steps to support staff living with the condition. A survey carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research revealed that one in 10 UK firms had employed someone living with dementia.

Speaking at the time, Kate Headley, director at the Clear Company insisted that individuals with ‘some degree of memory loss’ could continue to offer valuable skills and experience to workplaces, often for several years following diagnosis. But she warned that unless the condition is identified early enough by businesses, adequate support systems could not be put in place whilst symptoms could sometimes be mistaken for depression and stress.

According to Flowers, employers should consider whether they can provide alternative roles or suitable adaptations irrespective of the health condition. In many situations, they will not be able to make the necessary adjustments to the person’s existing role.

She said: “whilst some employers provide available benefits such as income protection or critical illness which provide financial support to employees who can no longer work, others, albeit rarely, may have access to a pre-retirement pension on ill health grounds. In many cases, the employer will have to exit the employee on medical capability grounds and the individual will then be left with a financial reliance on personal income, the state, or a combination of both.”

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