Dementia is the umbrella term for a group of illnesses that cause damage to the brain and its functions; including thinking, memory and communication. The dementia group of diseases are:
The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 50 million people worldwide have dementia. There are approximately 850,000 UK sufferers, with one in 14 persons over the age of 65 and 1 in 79 of the total UK population being affected. The number is expected to grow rapidly over the next several decades. As age is the biggest risk factor for dementia, increase in life expectancy is the principle driving force behind this projected rise.
With the increasing age of the population, the proportion of older drivers on the road is also rising. Given that age is the most significant risk factor for developing dementia, it is apparent that large numbers of licensed drivers have or are likely to develop dementia. Studies have shown that the driver with dementia is at increased risk to cause traffic accidents. Friedland and co-workers found a 47% prevalence rate of crashes among 30 persons with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) compared to 10% of 20 age-matched controls in a retrospective survey over 5 years.
Along with this increase in the age of the population, more workers are choosing to remain or having to remain in the workplace for longer. It is now not unusual to discover workers around you who could legitimately collect their state pensions. With barriers to working later in life being removed people are working well beyond the traditional norm. For many organisations this allows them to retain good workers and a wealth of experience so can be a positive aspect for both parties.
It is therefore essential that managers recognise that they have a rapidly growing risk that some of their drivers may have or develop dementia. For the reasons mentioned above there may be economic reasons for them not to willingly reveal that they have been diagnosed or may even have ignored symptoms as a means of not accepting that they have the disease.
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