People who go through chemotherapy for cancer often complain about “chemobrain.” If your loved one is under treatment and is having trouble with memory, thinking, and concentration, it is likely from the chemo drugs. The fuzzy thinking may not go away right when chemo stops. But it usually recedes over time.
Encourage your loved one to
- plan the day. Do the most challenging tasks at their “best time,” when they feel most mentally sharp. Get a large calendar/planner.
- create routines. Habits help because they don’t tax the brain. Keep the same daily schedule. Store essentials (keys, wallet, phone) in one spot.
- do one thing at a time. Remove distractions. Turn off the TV or radio. Avoid multitasking.
- use memory aids. Put lists on the refrigerator or smartphone. Use audio reminders from Google, Alexa, or Siri. GPS in the car.
- reduce mind alterants. Meet with the pharmacist to ask about substitutions for any noncancer drugs that cause mental fog. Stop/reduce use of alcohol or recreational drugs.
- move, eat, sleep. A daily walk gets essential oxygen to the brain. A diet high in vegetables brings vital nutrients. And getting a good night’s sleep gives the brain time to rid itself of the daily natural sludge that builds up.
- keep a sense of humor. “There goes that chemo brain!” Remind yourself—and everyone—that your loved one is not stupid. Just experiencing a bodily reaction to the assault of chemo drugs.
- let others know. Encourage your loved one to be open and to ask for help. Also, to join a support group of others undergoing chemo. There is relief in knowing you aren’t alone!
If your loved one also has insomnia, sleep apnea, depression, or anxiety, seek treatment for these conditions as they can also add to the fog.
Is your loved one’s brain fog challenging?
While it’s not full-blown dementia, “chemobrain” can still be disconcerting. As the Iowa City, Muscatine and Cedar Rapids experts in family caregiving, we at Iowa City Hospice encourage you to help your loved one learn to compensate. (Up to 30% of cancer survivors do not get back to their pretreatment abilities. It’s not easy for family members either.) Give us a call: 1-800-897-3052, toll-free. You don’t have to do this alone.