James Moorhouse examines how to provide support for both customers and employees affected by dementia
The CII previously published a guide for insurers on how to become ‘dementia-friendly’, with a video summary published on World Alzheimer’s Day this year, promoting awareness and initiatives to help support those living with dementia.
The word ‘dementia’ describes a group of symptoms that may include memory loss, difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language and often changes in mood, perception or behaviour. These changes are usually small to start with, but for someone with dementia they have become severe enough to affect daily life. Dementia is not a natural part of ageing, as it occurs when the brain is affected by a disease.
According to research from the Alzheimer’s Society, one in three people will develop dementia in their lifetime, while one in nine people will have caring responsibilities. There are currently more than 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia. This figure is expected to increase to more than one million people by 2025 and in excess of two million by 2051.
This is an issue that will affect everyone at some point in their life, whether it is a family member, a friend, a colleague or even themselves. As this figure increases, more support mechanisms will be needed for those living with dementia, as well as for those providing caring responsibilities. These support mechanisms will have to extend beyond medical and home care to also include financial products and services too.
Managing financial products is one of the areas that people find most difficult, according to the Alzheimer’s Society: “People living with dementia have told us that one of the biggest challenges they face is dealing with banks, building societies and insurance companies. The symptoms of dementia can make interactions such as these difficult, particularly if a person experiences forgetfulness or difficulty following processes. This can have significant consequences – for example, forgetting to pay a bill could result in debts. Without adequate support and adjustments from financial service providers, this can be incredibly distressing and harmful to someone with dementia.”
Bearing this in mind, here are a few ways insurers can make products and services more inclusive:
1. Provide staff with relevant training – Train customer-facing staff on how to better identify and support customers living with dementia. Encourage staff to become a ‘Dementia Friend’.
2. Create products that recognise the diverse needs of customers – Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to product lines. Signpost where appropriate.
3. Make information accessible – Avoid digital exclusions. Offer a range of options including via telephone or written in plain English, with simple layouts and structure.
4. Create a ‘tell me once’ policy – Customers should only have to disclose their diagnosis once.
5. Create a welcoming environment – Physical branches should have clear signage and comfortable seating arrangements, with helpful front-of-house staff.
However, to be truly dementia-friendly, firms need to be looking after their staff just as much as their customers. Some members of staff may develop symptoms of dementia or have caring responsibilities for someone else with dementia. These things should not mean the end of a career. Here are a few ways employers can be more inclusive to their staff:
1. Improve staff awareness and understanding – Consider partnering with a charity or provide relevant training.
2. Create a supportive environment – Create better flexibility, amend duties or revise working hours in productive ways to address any changes to an employees’ circumstances.
3. Maintain helpful policies and processes – Working patterns should be bespoke enough to allow flexibility to accommodate varying requirements, including regular reviews to monitor any changes.
Key pieces of legislation such as the Equality Act 2010 and the Flexible Working Regulations 2014 have seen the protection of employees’ rights so that they can remain in work if they are living with dementia. The Financial Conduct Authority’s consultation on vulnerable customers will also examine how insurers are providing products and services, and whether they are being inclusive.
Insurers and their employees are not expected to become experts on dementia overnight. Nor are they expected to diagnose and provide care for employees and customers. However, by raising awareness, understanding how to provide support, creating an inclusive environment and providing enough flexibility, insurers can demonstrate that they are taking active measures to acknowledge dementia as a part of
To read the full good practice guide and view the video, visit: www.cii.co.uk/82746
To learn more about Insurance United Against Dementia, visit: www.alzheimers.org.uk/IUAD
James Moorhouse is content manager of the CII