How Can You Reduce the Effects of Chemo Brain?

Senior man touching his head in discomfort
Could chemo brain be causing a loved one’s memory or focus problems?

Short-term memory problems. Confusion. Inability to focus. Could it be dementia?

Possibly; but if you’re a cancer survivor, there’s another common culprit which can be at play: chemotherapy. Known as chemotherapy induced cognitive impairment (CICI) or “chemo brain,” effects including these can continue for months and even years after treatment.

Chemo brain can occur in individuals receiving chemotherapy as well as surgery, radiation, or hormonal treatments, even without chemo. Furthermore, the cancer itself may 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 states, “Cancer-related cognitive impairment is now understood to be a complex, multi-factorial problem with various contributory factors.”

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

  • Multitasking
  • Reading comprehension
  • Finding the right word (for example, recalling the name of a person or common object)
  • Finishing sentences
  • Processing information
  • Attention span

A general feeling of fuzziness has also been reported. Taking these steps will help maximize cognitive functioning if chemo brain is affecting you or a loved one:

  • Prioritize obtaining 6 – 8 hours of sleep every night.
  • Exercise every day for at least 20 – 30 minutes. This can be as simple as using the stairs as opposed to the elevator, selecting a parking space a greater distance from your destination, or taking a regular walk around the block.
  • Manage stress by integrating time each day for relaxing activities.
  • Reduce distractions.
  • Get plenty of fresh air, avoiding exposure to any airborne toxins.
  • Make a practical list of to-dos, and prioritize them.
  • Use memory-assisting tools such as notifications and alerts on your phone.
  • Create and adhere to a routine to assist with your specific concerns; for instance, if you’re having difficulties with misplacing items, make a habit of consistently placing your wallet, keys, etc. in the identical place every single day.

JFS Care’s caregivers are highly skilled in caring for individuals diagnosed with cancer, before, during, and after treatment. We create a customized plan of care that details any challenges being faced and outlines answers to help overcome them, through home care services such as:

  • Planning and preparing nourishing meals that are appetizing to individuals receiving chemotherapy
  • Picking up prescriptions, grocery shopping, and running other errands as necessary
  • Providing pleasant companionship to engage in conversations and fun activities to brighten each day
  • Light housekeeping and laundry
  • Help with personal care needs such as dressing, bathing, and using the bathroom
  • And more

At JFS Care, a branch of Jewish Family Services Los Angeles, we are dedicated to providing exceptional home care support for families in Los Angeles. Email or call us anytime at (213) 383-2273 to learn more about how we can help. Visit our Service Area page to see all of the communities where we provide care.