Although people with Alzheimer’s do qualify for Social Security, those who want to keep working may receive accommodations.

Working a fulfilling job can be beneficial in so many ways. It can promote independence, increase self-esteem, nurture social bonds, and improve your overall quality of life.

For people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, a decline in cognitive and physical abilities can sometimes make it difficult to continue working after receiving a diagnosis. Yet it’s important that people living with Alzheimer’s continue to have the right to work for as long as they’re willing and able to do so.

So, what kinds of jobs are appropriate for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s, and what kinds of accommodations are available for employees who wish to continue to work?

This article explores the effect that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can have on employment status — and offers some suggestions for workplace roles and accommodations that can help make employment after diagnosis easier.

While it is still possible to work after a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, for some people, the decrease in cognitive and motor abilities can make it difficult to continue working. In fact, research has shown that people diagnosed with dementia are more likely to resign or apply for retirement earlier.

In one study from 2017 on early onset dementia, researchers found that 14% of employees who received a diagnosis of early onset dementia decided to leave their jobs after diagnosis (twice the rate of employees without a diagnosis).

Another small study from 2022 found that people with young onset dementia were more likely to leave their jobs early or apply for early retirement after diagnosis.

But a research review from 2022 also suggests that a change in cognitive or physical abilities isn’t the only factor that influences a person’s decision to continue working after diagnosis. Another important factor in the decision to leave work is the level of support offered by employers.

In one study from 2020, researchers explored the attitudes of 273 workplaces toward employees with early onset dementia. Results of the study found that less than 10% of these workplaces had training, programs, or support in place to help support employees who received a diagnosis of early onset dementia.

If you or someone you love has received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to be open and honest with your employer about the diagnosis if you plan to stay at your workplace — and here’s why.

Alzheimer’s disease is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Your employer must offer reasonable accommodations for you in the workplace if you choose to continue working. Depending on your symptoms, these accommodations may include things like:

  • performing only simplified (yet familiar) job tasks
  • having additional time for training and learning
  • using written information and checklists for tasks
  • using written instructions or pictures for procedures
  • using color-coding systems to reduce confusion
  • listening to voice instructions and verbal reminders
  • using timers or watches to help keep track of time

One small study from 2013 found that accommodations like fewer work hours, trained helpers, and tailored work shifts were all effective ways to keep employees with younger onset dementia safely involved in work.

In addition, the researchers found that still being able to work not only helped improve self-esteem in these employees but also increased overall life satisfaction.

So, what are some jobs that people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s can safely do, with reasonable accommodations? Here are just a few job roles to consider after diagnosis:

  • librarian
  • consultant
  • salesperson
  • office worker
  • writer
  • teacher
  • tutor
  • artist
  • musician
  • gardener
  • usher

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the jobs that someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s can do — but it’s a great place to start for those who want to start or continue working.

One final note is that not every job is safe for people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Any jobs that place a person’s safety at risk — such as jobs involving hot food and drinks, slippery floors, dark areas, or potentially dangerous tools and equipment — are not suitable jobs for someone with dementia.

If you’re a caretaker or loved one of someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, you may still have questions about the effect that these diseases can have. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Do people with Alzheimer’s qualify for disability?

According to the ADA, a disability is any physical or mental impairment that significantly limits a person’s life activities. Because Alzheimer’s disease can have such a significant effect on someone’s ability to function, it is considered a disability under the law.

Can you collect Social Security if you have Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is classified as a neurocognitive disorder under Social Security, so if you or someone you love has received a diagnosis for the condition, you are eligible for Social Security disability payments. In addition, early onset Alzheimer’s disease is also eligible for assistance under the Compassionate Allowances exception.

What can people with Alzheimer’s do to keep busy?

People with Alzheimer’s benefit from staying engaged and active in the world around them, so programs that offer activities like games, music, and storytelling can be beneficial for people living with dementia. Other activities may include things like gentle exercise, cooking and baking, reading and writing, and other hobbies.

How often should you visit someone with Alzheimer’s?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it can be helpful to plan out visits with your loved one ahead of time to make the process easier for everyone. And while there’s no set recommendation for how often to visit someone with Alzheimer’s, it can still be helpful to keep in mind other factors, like how long you stay or the time of day you visit.

Alzheimer’s can greatly affect someone’s ability to work, which can significantly decrease not only their quality of life but their sense of purpose in life.

Some people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s may wish to continue working for as long as they’re able to. And with the proper considerations and accommodations, people with Alzheimer’s can still find purpose in working until they’re ready to leave on their terms.