Silhouette of virtual human

We have all had moments of forgetfulness. Maybe you mixed up your Tuesdays and showed up to a medical appointment one week early; when you were a student, perhaps it was a spelling test you forgot to prepare for. While in the moment, these mistakes are frustrating and embarrassing, but in the workplace, memory deficits can have a major impact on work efficiency and performance goals. For those struggling with memory difficulties related to their disability, there may be reasonable workplace accommodations that can help.

Many types of disabilities can have an impact on an individual’s memory. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and cancer (related to chemotherapy treatment) are typical diagnoses JAN callers disclose that can contribute to memory issues. However, there is no list of specific disabilities that affect memory. As with chemotherapy, sometimes the side effects of medication can cause difficulties. Regardless of why there is a limitation related to memory, JAN consultants can help brainstorm potential solutions for your individualized workplace needs.

For example, a JAN caller “Izzy” had a stroke last year. While her physical difficulties have healed, she is still struggling with performing her role as an administrative assistant at a fast-paced marketing firm. Izzy struggles with completing assignments correctly and missing deadlines. The employer is aware of the stroke and has been helpful, but her most recent performance evaluation made clear she was not meeting expectations and was consequently placed on an improvement plan.

As a consultant addressing this situation, I wanted to know more about why the employee is struggling. Izzy explained she cannot remember specific details about assignments she is given and oftentimes misses important information. As a result, she would have to go back and make corrections after submission. She also mentioned that during meetings, she does not remember key information, and even during one-on-one conversations, she cannot remember everything that was discussed.

My accommodation ideas focused on what could be modified in the workplace to help the employee meet her goals and complete her work efficiently. Some accommodation ideas include recording both instructions and meetings, asking for a written recap of a meeting, and receiving more written instructions from her supervisor so she can review them as necessary. If the employee has a record of what is expected of her, then that could negate or minimize the memory deficit and assist her in meeting deadlines. In addition, weekly meetings or check-ins to make sure the employee is on target with her work could be beneficial. There are also many apps and programs designed to help with memory, so technology may also assist the employee with staying organized and on track with meeting deadlines. 

JAN consultants are available to assist with your specific workplace accommodation questions or you can visit our website at!

Additional JAN resources: