Handle SIDE EFFECTS
Below is information on two common side effects of cancer treatment that can affect job performance.
Some people who have had chemotherapy find their work skills negatively affected. This mental fog is usually called "chemo brain," "cognitive dysfunction associated with chemotherapy" or "post-chemo brain." Symptoms include: memory lapses, problems remembering names, details or the spelling of common words, difficulty paying attention, inability to multitask as previously, inability to think as fast as one once did, difficulty remembering how to do tasks one once did easily. Chemo brain may continue after treatment and is made worse by stress and fatigue. Up to 30 percent of cancer patients who get chemotherapy may get chemo brain. If your employee has any of these symptoms, here are some things you can try:
- BE AWARE of the employee’s stress level. Stress can hurt thinking skills and performance.
- LESSEN contact with any toxins. Whether it's an open window that lets in polluted air or workplace materials that are toxic, these things can affect brain health.
- ENCOURAGE your employee to prioritize. Have your employee list his or her tasks, and help determine what needs to be done first. Then, have your employee focus only on the first task.
- CHECK the employee’s work more carefully than you did before. Or have someone else check it until you’re both comfortable that the work reliably meets the company’s standards.
- ENCOURAGE interactions with coworkers. Being in a social environment for part of the workday helps brain function. The combination of thinking and talking is good for repairing the brain.
- ASK a coworker your employee trusts to help "retrain" him or her on the tasks he or she may have forgotten.
By far, fatigue is the number one complaint you're likely to hear from employees after surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Knowing the typical patterns of fatigue can help your employee schedule work and time off when needed. Fatigue from chemotherapy usually hits a day after the treatment, last for several days, and then starts to go away. Fatigue after radiation tends to add up – getting worse with each treatment. Here’s how you can support your employee in managing fatigue:
- EXERCISE. Give your employee occasional breaks to take short walks.
- REST. Make sure your employee has a comfortable place to take short rests during the day.
- REDUCE STRESS. Be aware of things that may worsen stress, like noise and other distractions.
- PRIORITIZE. Be hands-on in helping your employee prioritize tasks and avoid multitasking.