March 10, 2022 by Dean Bellefeuille

senior man holding head

Short-term memory problems. Confusion. Inability to focus. Could it be Alzheimer’s?

Perhaps; however if you’re a cancer survivor, there is another likely culprit that might be at play: chemotherapy. Known as chemotherapy induced cognitive impairment (CICI) or “chemo brain,” effects including these can last for months and even years post-treatment.

Chemo brain can happen in someone receiving chemotherapy as well as surgery, radiation, or hormonal treatments, even without chemo. Additionally, the cancer itself can cause cognitive issues as well, compounding the issue with effectively treating the condition.

Dr. Kevin Liou of the Bendhaim Integrative Medicine Center of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center shares, “Cancer-related cognitive impairment is now understood to be a complex, multi-factorial problem with various contributory factors.”

As a result, chemo brain can result any time during or post cancer treatment, presenting with symptoms such as difficulty with:

  • Multitasking
  • Reading comprehension
  • Selecting the proper word (i.e., recalling the name of an individual or common object)
  • Completing sentences
  • Processing information
  • Attention span

A general sense of fuzziness has also been documented. Taking these steps can help improve cognitive functioning if chemo brain is affecting you or someone you love:

  • Prioritize getting 6 – 8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Exercise each day for at least 20 – 30 minutes. This can be as simple as using the stairs instead of the elevator, selecting a parking space farther away from your destination, or taking a daily walk around the block.
  • Manage stress by integrating time every day for relaxing activities.
  • Reduce distractions.
  • Get sufficient amounts of fresh air, protecting against exposure to any airborne toxins.
  • Make a feasible list of to-dos, and prioritize them.
  • Use memory-assisting tools for example, notifications and alerts on your phone.
  • Create and adhere to a routine to help with your particular concerns; for example, if you’re having difficulties with misplacing items, make a habit of consistently placing your keys, wallet, etc. in the identical position every single day.

At Home Independent Living’s caregivers are experienced in caring for individuals with cancer, before, during, and after treatment. We develop a personalized plan of care that addresses any challenges being faced and outlining solutions to help overcome them, through services such as:

  • Planning and preparing healthy and balanced meals that are appetizing to those receiving chemotherapy
  • Grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, and running other errands as needed
  • Providing pleasant companionship to take part in conversations and fun activities to brighten every day
  • Light housekeeping and laundry
  • Assistance with personal care needs such as dressing, bathing and using the bathroom
  • And more

Call us 24/7 at 315-579-HOME (4663) to learn more about our home health care in Syracuse, NY and the surrounding area.