People with young onset dementia face unique challenges. Notably, at time of symptom presentation, many people affected by young onset dementia are still employed with significant financial obligations. The aim of this study was to explore the specific impact that young onset dementia has on continued employment and finances and to identify ways to optimise post-diagnostic approaches in this regard.
Purposive sampling, with a maximum variation technique, was used to recruit a small but diverse range of people with young onset dementia in Ireland. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted, and data were analysed using Reflexive Thematic Analysis. In total, 22 interviews were conducted with 10 people with young onset dementia and 12 spouses and children. Two themes were constructed: impact of young onset dementia on (I) employment and (II) finances.
Participants' lived accounts showed the devastating effect of a diagnosis of young onset dementia on working life, and the resultant financial, social, and psychological consequences. Participants reported having to leave paid employment early, reported losing contracts and retiring on medical grounds. There were financial implications caused by loss of income, and many additional expenses owing to dementia were incurred. In some families, spouses had to take up employment at the same time as a caring role to mitigate the loss of income, and young children were anxious at the resultant occupational and financial tensions.
People diagnosed with young onset dementia encounter significant challenges associated with employment, and individual and family finances. There is a need for more specific information and guidance from healthcare professionals around employment rights, income support and welfare benefits and the pension status for this group of people. Additionally, healthcare professionals should be cognisant of the additional financial burden people face in young onset dementia when advising on services which incur out-of-pocket costs.