How employers can help in preventing dementia

Public Health England have announced that dementia advice will form part of the free over 40s NHS health check after a successful pilot was conducted in conjunction with two Alzheimer’s charities. It’s thought that up to one-third of dementia cases could be improved through lifestyle choices but research shows that almost as many people 28% have no awareness of risk factors and even less (just 2%) know what can be done to reduce them.  The current NHS health check focuses on reducing the risks for cardiovascular disease, but Public Health England say the advice for dementia is much the same  “What’s good for the heart is good for the brain.” .

Reducing the risk factors
There are a number of ways in which lifestyle choices can reduce the risk of dementia and many of these fit well with employer health and wellbeing strategies:

  • Maintaining a social life
  • Keeping mentally active
  • Regular physical exercise
  • Stopping smoking

Support from employee benefits provision
Employee benefits can help in a number of ways from the obvious (such as an onsite gym or Private Medical Insurance) to the more obscure (Employee Assistance Programmes often include gym discounts). Some employers go as far as to provide free activity trackers in return for sharing data about activity levels. Working later into life could help with keeping mentally and physically active so having policies in place to support older workers will also be of value. An aspect that might well be overlooked is the importance of a workplace culture which fosters friendships and provides opportunities for social interaction.

And finally
Smaller employers with more limited resource and capacity in terms of the HR function can still do much to support and encourage healthy lifestyles among staff. For example keeping good records of sickness absence is low or no cost, but will enable analysis of data for trends and weaknesses among particular groups within the organization. Such detail can be invaluable in developing a future health and wellbeing strategy that tackles any problem areas that have been identified.

Source: Over 40s to get free dementia advice, Emily Perryman, Health Insurance Daily, 20 June 2018

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