Dear Abby: My heart ached after reading the letter from "Stumped in California" (Feb. 4), who wondered what could be done about an older co-worker, "Anita," who she said was showing "signs of dementia." I would caution her about making judgments based on stereotypes of older workers and their health problems.
Like Anita, I am in my late 60s. I am also underwater in my mortgage, which means I have no nest egg. Because my husband is unemployed, my savings have been depleted. My short-term memory is poor, and the meds I am on to help me function do not improve my memory.
Anita may not have dementia. She may be suffering from unbearable worry and stress. I suggest putting out a hand in friendship to Anita instead of trying to diagnose her.
-- Feeling It Too in Richmond, Va.
Dear Feeling It: Many of my readers felt this one, and wrote to offer compassion to Anita as well as possible explanations for her slip in job performance. Read on:
Dear Abby: Anyone experiencing marked and/or prolonged changes in mood, function and behavior should undergo thorough medical and/or psychological/psychiatric evaluation. Many treatable conditions can affect memory and concentration. The constant tearfulness observed by "Stumped" is a common symptom of depression.
If Anita's office has an Employee Assistance Plan, a supervisor or HR will know the procedure for referring her to an EAP clinician who can evaluate her and make recommendations for treatment, work-related considerations and follow-up.
-- Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Upstate New York
Dear Abby: I am a state-licensed hearing instrument specialist. The commonalities between the symptoms of hearing loss and dementia are many. A person with hearing loss has a tendency to withdraw -- she's more APART FROM than a PART OF. Also, if she's having trouble remembering things she's done before, she may not have heard the request. (How can you remember something if you never heard it?)
I encourage "Stumped" to talk to Anita about having her hearing tested. A hearing aid may be what she needs to help her perform better on the job.
-- Knows From Experience
Dear Abby: I am 67 and work because I can't live on Social Security. Perhaps Anita is facing the same problem and must work. My co-workers are supportive, and we have access to a wellness program to help us. She should check with Human Resources. Anita needs support, not criticism. Do not assume all seniors suffer from dementia.
-- Seasoned Worker in Tucson