Alzheimer’s disease is a mental disorder that is commonly thought to affect only the elderly; people who have retired and are in the last years of their life. However, experts say that this debilitating disease has begun to affect younger people who have many years ahead of them in the workforce. This can prove tricky for both employers and employees who are now finding themselves in uncharted territory. Recently, the Social Security Administration has worked to alleviate this burden by fast-tracking the Social Security Disability applications of those who are afflicted with early onset Alzheimer’s disease and mixed dementia.
Experts with the Alzheimer’s Association say that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of employees afflicted with dementia in recent years. There are two main reasons for this rise. First, the economy has left employees financially strapped, and older workers are unable to retire. Second, the number of young Americans afflicted with the disease has been on the rise for several years, and now approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
According to Alzheimer’s Association program director Cheryl Kanetsky, work is often the first place that signs of dementia become apparent. “The workplace is where people pick up on the subtle changes. It might affect calculations, managing budgets or time deadlines,” she said. “An employer may be the first person to notice a change in productivity, a change in the ability to do the job that they seemed well-equipped to do before.”
Although the Americans With Disabilities Act protects workers from being fired for dementia and similar conditions, many Americans may have no other choice than to retire due to Alzheimer’s. However, the SSD/SSI application process was recently changed to accommodate this growing group. Early onset Alzheimer’s disease and mixed dementia were recently added to the Compassionate Allowances program, which allows the SSA to fast-track the applications of young workers who are finding themselves unexpectedly disabled and unemployed due to Alzheimer’s disease.
Source: The News-Herald, “Dementia on the job increasing”, Terry Read, 28 November 2010