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I’m afraid my boss has dementia

I’m afraid my boss has dementia

Q: My supervisor always has been a bright and talented guy.  But lately, he’s been getting forgetful – to the point that I believe he may have a form of dementia. I don’t know where to turn – he is the head of our corporation and doesn’t have a supervisor. Should I call his wife?

A: As many of us continue to work into our senior years, due to economic challenges or with a sense of service or mission, your question will become a more frequent concern. Essentially, whether it is a question of your boss’ forgetfulness because of too many responsibilities or is truly a deterioration of his faculties is a diagnosis to be made by a medical professional.

From what I have read and experienced as a caregiver to my aging and now deceased parents, a person is highly likely to overlook associated symptoms and to be defensive about such comments. My father was very defensive about his memory loss; yet, for years, he confided in me about my mother’s forgetfulness and likely dementia. My mother, whose memory was actually intact, never once said anything about my father’s failing memory, even after he was no longer able to play the card games that had been so much a part of his life. She continued always to be devoted to his care. 

Following her example, what can be done in your workplace situation? Mom began by talking with her doctor about Dad’s situation. Similarly, you could make a general inquiry call to an Alzheimer’s association. Then, if your boss’ symptoms align themselves with possible dementia, I’d begin by making a few confidential notes as you observe memory failure incidents, so that, if and when you are asked for specific examples, you are able to pull together facts, not just a sketchy recall of recent events. As you record these observations, consider if what you are noticing is a result of a man with too many responsibilities. Perhaps he is very capable of running a corporation, but just needs assistance with managing the many tasks on his desk. Helping him maintain an “Action Register” might be the solution. If you work with him to review these items on a routine basis, this may be all that’s necessary to keep things from slipping through the cracks.

On the other hand, if his episodes of forgetfulness seriously threaten his ability to do his job and put the company, as well as the jobs of others who work there, at jeopardy, it is time to take a further step. Whom to talk with is more than I can address without further information – it may be his wife or another family member, a member of the Board of Directors or another senior manager. What to say, when and to whom are worthy of prayer.

1 Corinthians 13:1 is an outstanding reminder that no matter what you do, my mother’s example of “love first” is the way to proceed. Love is patient, love is kind… It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.