Side by Side: A workplace engagement program for people with younger onset dementia

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Abstract

This paper describes an innovative demonstration program called Side by Side that was initiated to assess the feasibility of supported workplace engagement for people with younger onset dementia. Seven people with mild dementia work one day per week beside a work-buddy in a large metropolitan hardware store. Work-buddies are store employees who have undergone dementia training. Work duties are negotiated at the start of each shift and include restocking, plant care, assembling display stock and serving customers. All participants have been able to adapt to the workplace environment and some now talk about ‘their customers’. Family carers have reported a positive impact on self-esteem and life satisfaction as a result of the workplace experience. This evaluation of feasibility has exceeded all expectations and has demonstrated that it is possible to offer meaningful activities for people with mild dementia if an appropriate framework of support is provided.

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