Disability Focus: Brain Fog

Monday, July 09, 2012

At Champions, we start every Monday morning with a presentation where one of our staff members highlights a disability, the symptoms related to the diagnosis and the barriers and opportunities related to employment for people who experience it. We do this as part of our commitment to organizational learning but also because we recognize how there are a vast amount of disabilities which affect each person differently.

Today's disability focus is on the phenomenon known as Brain Fog, or in some circles as Chemo Brain. The shifting in name from Chemo Brain to Brain Fog has occurred as researchers and doctors have discovered how the symptoms and diagnosis are not limited to just those people who have undergone treatments for cancer. In fact, Brain Fog can happen to anybody who undergoes treatment for a serious health diagnosis.

People experiencing Brain Fog often face difficulties with their memory, concentration, remembering details, and problems with multitasking. Although often only temporary, the loss in cognitive functioning can be very frustrating. People with Brain Fog generally score within their normal capacity on intelligence or neuropsychological tests, but complex tasks and memory functioning remain problematic for a period of time after treatment for a health issue. Explaining the symptoms and change in abilities can be equally frustrating for people with Brain Fog, as others may not understand or believe the symptoms are occurring.

There are several strategies available for people who are experiencing Brain Fog but are looking to return to work. The first is to pace yourself, don't overdo it when you first get back to work. The mental energy required to perform on the job for long periods of time may lead to increased exhaustion and frustration. Only working half days at first and then adding an hour each week will help you cope with the stress and rigour of the workplace. Memory issues are also not a new phenomenon and there are many ways to manage barriers associated with Brain Fog. Focusing on one task at a time, keeping a detailed daily planner, setting up routines and tracking your memory problems can all help manage your mental state. Finally, talk about how you are feeling! Sharing with others allows them to understand what you are going through and also help you with difficulties.

We would like to thank Wellspring Calgary, a group who offers sessions for all Cancer survivors about Brain Fog and how to deal with it, for taking the time to share this issue with us.


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