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You are here:   Cancer and Work Healthcare providers Assessment of work abilities Assessing cognitive abilities

Assessing cognitive abilities

Following completion of cancer treatment, some patients who return to full- or part-time employment may notice a decline in their ability to remember work tasks, to remain focused on specific tasks, and to organize work as efficiently as before. These changes can lead to uncertainty about abilities to engage in various work tasks. Without access to support, these individuals may decide to leave the workforce despite their need and desire for paid employment.

Employers and supervisors may notice the cancer survivor requires more time to complete tasks than in the past. Then again, they may not understand the scope of the survivor’s impairments. Knowledge about accommodations needed to help the survivor work productively and safely would benefit all parties. Healthcare providers can play a pivotal role in supporting the success of the return to/staying at work process by:

  • assessing and identifying cognitive challenges
  • determining the survivor’s specific needs
  • recommending accommodations
  • referring the survivor to resources to remediate their cognitive challenges

The physician’s guidance regarding cognitive challenges can also play a critical role in determining work readiness for employers and for insurance claims.

Professional assessments

To aid assessing work ability cognitive functioning is commonly evaluated in work-focused neuropsychological or occupational therapy assessments.

These assessments are often not readily available within the healthcare system or from community agencies. Often, such assessments are obtained through a physician referral or funded by insurance providers.

Anticipating the impact of brain fog on work ability

If there are concerns reported by the patient, or commented or observed by employers about a patient’s ability to successfully return to or stay at work in a safe, productive and competitive way, ask the patient to complete the Cognitive Activity at Work Tool. The tool is a good first step to providing a forum for discussion between the healthcare provider and patient and, if needed, the employer and insurance provider. Such interaction can help to identify, anticipate and discuss problems that involve common work tasks requiring specific cognitive functions. The Cognitive Activity at Work Tool can enable healthcare providers and patients to collaborate in identifying work-related tasks where cognitive problems may exist. This is the first self-reported tool to assist in identifying cognitive limitations at work. For more information, read the following article by Michael Feuerstein, PhD, MPH (Feuerstein et al., 2010).1

Cognitive Activity at Work Tool