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Cognition issue
farside_fan posted:
Hi everyone!
Long story short.....I had my annual review at work last week. My director questioned me about numerous mistakes I've made this past school year (that I've never made before) and how they are becoming more and more obvious to her. She wanted to know what my "problem" was.

My answer? "It's called MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS and if you'd like more information about the neurological problems it causes, I would be most happy to supply you with the facts so you'd UNDERSTAND what I deal with on a daily basis."

I was diagnosed 16 years ago and I SWORE I'd never use this disease as an "excuse" but over time, things have changed (especially cognition problems) and I'm being questioned about it.

I've had the same job for 25 years (administrative/educational secretary) and I'm not going down without a fight......if it comes to that.

Has any other MSer dealt with this problem? Would love your input and/or suggestions. Thanks so much!!!
hackwriter responded:
Dear farside,

To be blunt, it's not going to be easy. Even though the Americans with Disabilities Act obliges your employer to accommodate disabled employees, it does not prevent an employer from using one loophole courtesy of the at-will employment contract: they have the right to dismiss you if they claim you are unable to fulfill the requirements of the job. In fact, the at-will contract allows an employer to dismiss you for any reason they see fit.

I know MSers who have kept their jobs because they have a great employer who values them--and I know a lot of MSers who lost their jobs after they informed their bosses of the disease, and with no recourse. What happens to you will depend on the ethos of the company you work for.

I kept my disease a secret for years until it began to affect my job performance. I quit after being tormented, hounded, and handed the first poor performance review of my entire working life--but I didn't yet have an official diagnosis, only "probable MS" and therefore couldn't even use it as an "excuse." I worked temp jobs after that, struggling to keep up with demanding workloads and trainings that I used to easily manage.

I finally got an official diagnosis but kept my condition a secret until early 2008, when the recession made job opportunities dry up all together. The handwriting was on the wall; I was fifty-one and I could no longer work a full-time job. I became financially dependent on family and boyfriend. A year later I filed a Social Security disability claim, won it, and retired.

It sounds as though you plan to fight the good fight until you decide otherwise, and that's pretty much what we all do. You'll know when to throw in the towel and file that SSDI claim.

I hope you have a solid support system among family and friends, that helps tremendously of course.

farside_fan replied to hackwriter's response:
Hackwriter, thanks so much for your reply. I have no idea if my so-called "evaluation" on Friday was negative or positive at this point. Regardless, I'll supply my director with MS information in a few days so SHE can be better informed about how MS tends to change as time goes by!!!

She even asked me if I "knew" when I was going to have a memory problem or did it just "happen." DO WHAT??? I told her that her question didn't make much sense and was much like asking her (which I did)..."Do you know when you're going to have a headache?" It ain't like I PLAN to have memory problems. Geez.......

I might add that my having MS is not something new to her as she's known it for 10 years or more and there's never been a potential problem.....until now. She just doesn't truly understand HOW this goofy disease affects me at times and I think she realized the split second after she asked me her stupid question that her "ignorance" was personified.

This, too, shall pass and life goes on. I was just wondering how other MSer's handle their cognitive/memory problems and how others deal with it on the job.

Thank you again for your quick reply. I really AM clueless right now and am starting to question a lot of things and how I should handle things.

An_250916 replied to farside_fan's response:
You say in your posts that you have had MS for 16 years and that the supervisor you were dealing with has known about it for 10 years. You also say that the mistakes identified in your latest evaluation are a recent development.

So, look at it from your supervisor's perspective. Your supervisor has an employee who they know has had MS for at least a decade and only in the last year has the employee started having performance problems. Why would you expect them to assume the problems were related to your MS? Especially since it has apparently not caused similar performance problems in prior years.

Go back and look at your two posts and see how many times you explicitly suggest your supervisor is "stupid" or "ignorant" or you use sentence constructs to convey the same idea, It seems perfectly reasonable to ask an employee the cause of a sudden decline in performance and if your actual responses mirror what is in your posts, it seems just as likely they were taken aback at your reaction to the fact they didn't read your mind.

You admit in your first post that you DID make the mistakes were reflected in your evaluation, so if you plan to "fight" for your job, then you'll need to approach it with a little more humility. After all, you're going to be asking your employer and your supervisor for some understanding and accommodation in light of the impact MS has had on you and that can't be done from an attitude of belligerence and militancy.

I would suggest you give this some thought and then approach your employer and supervisor with the attitude that it is in the interest of both of you to create a "win-win" situation. You have been a high performing employee for 25 years with extensive knowledge of the job and you would like to keep that job and you're willing to make any changes necessary to do that. This offer address the mistakes previously identified. But, to successfully accomplish this, you will need from them [whatever it is you think will allow you to address the cognition problems>.

In my own situation, I keep a pad of yellow paper on my desk (all other paper in the office is either white or pale green) and as soon as I get a task or piece of information related to a task, I jot it down on the yellow tablet. I mark off the tasks as they are accomplished and at a convenient time during the day, I go back down my yellow tablet and look for anything not marked off so that it can become my priority. That helps minimize things that are overlooked because of "cognitive fog".

Good luck.
An_250923 responded:
you have no idea. I could tell you a story that would make you scream!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! the ms society where I live,was so baffled and mortified by what employer was/and still is trying to pull...they put me through to a conference call with the national headquarter in D.C. to hear my story. way to long to type on here,If you wanna hear it,email me at
An_250923 replied to farside_fan's response:
UGH! Do you know when your going to have a memory problem?!?!?! Now that makes me very angry!
GrimReaper responded:
I understand 100%. I was told I had MS on Sept 11,2000. The day I came back to work from being out of the hospital for test life at work has never been the same. I have been with the same company for 30 years. And when review time comes up the raises are very small even though I am told I do a great job all year. Promotions are a joke, I am past by while people I train get prompted. I here the comments he is sick and he want be able to do the job.
I was told by a manager that I need to get a cane or lose my job. Cause no body will believe you are sick with out the cane. I have lived like this for 50 years, cause I have Asthma also.

People can be and will be asses, but they never want to learn about the hell you are going thru. All they think about if firing you.
CTumaian responded:
Dear Farside,

I too was forced from my job because of MS. Not once but twice. The first time I was just diagnosed in 2007. My employer told me I could work from home 3 days and come in 2 days. So my house was sold and I moved to the shore 80 miles away. They already fired someone with MS stating that her work was failing so I was kind of expecting it. After 2 months they told me I would have to come in the office 4 days a week and work from home 1. They knew I would not travel 80 miles 1 way every day. so I was forced out.

I got another job and when their insurance came up a few months later they said it wasn't working out. I knew the insurance premiums would jump if they kept me. So I got laid off the day their insurance renewed. Can't prove what they did but I believe they will one day have to answer for it.
farside_fan replied to An_250923's response:
I almost laughed in her face when she asked me the question. Hence; MY anger!!! This is a woman who "knows EVERYTHING about everything" and has had just about every malady known to medical science, yet she PROVED she knows NOTHING about MS and how uncanny the disease can be at times.....with no prior "warning" (as she thought). Oddly enough, she couldn't tell me WHAT I had fouled up or forgotten so I just chalked it up and thought I'd put together some information for her to read and get the FACTS about MS. Thanks for your reply.
gsorrent responded:

Hi Farside,

After reading your posting, it brings back my issues & employer. I was with the same employer for 19 years, 16 of them w/MS. The company knew of my diagnosis and was able to continue working until the last year or so, when I started making mistakes as well as you. Many discussions with my supervisor did nothing but make me feel less of the capable employee I had been and more of a person unable to complete tasks up to their high standards Despite all this criticism, I was determined not to give up, as you, but my husband hurt his back and was no longer able to help me get to work, so what I thought was temporary, then became permanent. (Devine intervention???) I had to stop working. and found myself applying for SSDI. I am home now and although I would much rather be working, I have regained some self esteem and have found other things to feel good about.
I think that not wanting to give up and keep fighting is great, but when it comes to the point of frustration and affects your self esteem and ultimately well-being, it's OK to move on and do what makes you smile inside as well as out.
Hope this helps you come to some conclusion. Please feel free to contact me anytime.

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