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Advice from MikeD or anyone. Scared.
Old 11-16-2012, 10:38 AM   #1
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Advice from MikeD or anyone. Scared.

I saw an old post from MIkeD, who seemed to have been in the same boat I am now. I also work in software, highly complicated involving taxes, and have been having issues with memory lately. MRI 6 months ago showed spots (vascular ischemia), had another one this month. Still same spots. Had all day "neursopschology" testing done yesterday (apparently memory type testing), and it appears (from what little they told me during the testing) that I didn't do well on areas that they expected be not to do well in due to what they believe is vascular changes/damages, vascular dementia, etc. but I will find out more in about 10 days when I return for my followup visit. Essentially the woman giving the test and the doctor overseeing the process all indicated the MRI, and my tests, pointed to what they suspected, are mini-strokes I've suffered (I have been diabetic for almos 15 years with high blood pressure). I am scared. Not just for my health, but I am in my upper 50's, and seriously worried I will get fired from my job due to mistakes I've been making... before I could qualify for disability with UNUM (my company also uses UNUM for both short and long term disability). I would be ever so greatful for any words of wisdom or encouragement on what to do going forward. Do I approach my HR dept, my supervisior, hide the reason I'm having problems at work, etc. (i.e, I've already gotten a bad review.. after years of glowing ones... and it's all related to "focus".. which I now understand is the very issue I am physically having due to these vascular problems). If I approach my HR dept, can I qualify for "accomodations" so I can continue to work.. or would that just open me up to being fired even more? If I loose my job (I have been here 15 years and up until last year.. was a model employee), we'll lose everything. I am scared for my health and my job. Any suggestions from anyone on what I should or shoudn't do?? Thanks!
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Old 11-16-2012, 10:52 AM   #2
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To me taking care of your health is top priority. On working with or informing your company, do they have an employee assistance program? If so, it may be better to solicit counsel from them on how to broach this subject with the company before talking to HR or your supervisor.

Hope everything works out OK for you on both fronts.
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:23 AM   #3
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I imagine you'd be protected under the American with Disabilities Act.
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:27 AM   #4
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I imagine you'd be protected under the American with Disabilities Act.
+1
I would find someone you know in HR, or just someone who seems easy to talk to, and discuss your issues. The HR people are there to help you in most cases, as well as providing their corporate function.
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:44 AM   #5
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So sorry for your situation.
I don't feel qualified to give advice, in any case, but my sense is that any action on your part would depend on the company. In my working days, I could go to management, and depend on compassion and a way to work through the problems with a reassignment of responsibility, especially because of loyalty and long service. That was a long time ago. Today, I'm not sure. I have one son who is secure in his job but has a mild disability which the company accepts and works with, and another who is in a dog eat dog situation despite 20 years of exemplary work. It's a tough question, no doubt.

I'd guess it depends on the company's structure, as to whether or not they can accommodate the memory problems with a position that is less requiring of that requirement.

This is the kind of situation where it helps to bounce the problems off a good friend or a professional. The fact that you've asked here, is a good start.

One of the things that happens to many of us, as we grow older, is coming to grips with different types of problems... some physical, some mental, some emotional. Always there is a way to adapt. Staying open to these alternatives is the biggest hurdle. You've got a good start.

Best wishes for a good outcome... somehow I think you'll do ok.!
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Old 11-16-2012, 01:54 PM   #6
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I'm sorry, 2early. If it's any consolation, a good neuropsych exam can help figure out exactly what damage has occurred and how to cope with it.

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Originally Posted by DFW_M5 View Post
To me taking care of your health is top priority. On working with or informing your company, do they have an employee assistance program? If so, it may be better to solicit counsel from them on how to broach this subject with the company before talking to HR or your supervisor.
Hope everything works out OK for you on both fronts.
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I imagine you'd be protected under the American with Disabilities Act.
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Originally Posted by braumeister View Post
+1
I would find someone you know in HR, or just someone who seems easy to talk to, and discuss your issues. The HR people are there to help you in most cases, as well as providing their corporate function.
In my opinion, in this situation you get all the justice you can afford to buy. The company has a huge sum of cash (and liability) at stake, and they may be able to afford to drag it out for years.

I think you should lawyer up before approaching anyone at your company. It's a big up-front expense but the payoff can be equally huge.
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Old 11-16-2012, 03:18 PM   #7
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Sorry about your situation. A few things that I would consider if I were in this situation:
Wait until the test results are in and talk to the doctors before addressing anything at work. You can then ask the doctors if you should pursue immediate disability, or if you will need to go on disability in the near future. Explain the work situation and fear to them, and see what they think. You're not their 1st patient with this illness and work situation. Also, proof in hand of your diagnosis and limitations, would be good to have when talking to a boss or HR.
On not making software errors:
1. I'm familiar with software development. Yes, mistakes can get you in hot water, but mistakes happen and every developer has made some good ones, so don't panic. Decide to take the time to double check everything. If your shop doesn't have a formal Quality Assurance process, ask a coworker/teammate to do a logic walk through before coding a new program/module and a review of the code once it is written. Document the code thoroughly. It forces you to explain (and rethink about) what you are doing and makes it easier for a code review or future updates.
2. Don't rely on yourself to just remember variable names, etc while you code. Get a pad of paper and write them down.
3. Give up on multitasking while coding. Get rid of as many distractions and interruptions as you can. Ignore the emails, texts from friends, radio, etc, etc, etc.
4. Take a deep breath and realize YOU CAN DO IT.
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Old 11-16-2012, 08:55 PM   #8
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I think you should lawyer up before approaching anyone at your company. It's a big up-front expense but the payoff can be equally huge.
Agree, Company loyalty is to profits, not employees. It is likely better to have the attorney do the talking with company regarding the issue. As anything you say, can and will be used against you.
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Old 11-16-2012, 10:45 PM   #9
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Assuming you are working for a large employer, keep in mind that it has been years since I worked in Employee Relations:

I think it would be appropriate to ask your HR representative for information about Family Medical Leave Act, sharing only that you are undergoing medical assessment which may, or may not be, consequential.

Assuming that your condition is such that you are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act you don't yet know what accommodation could be required although, based on your first post, I think you could ask for peer review of your work at this time. The ADA is supposed to cover permanent disabilities but right now you don't know if you have a permanent or transient condition.

Large employers are VERY sensitive to ADA issues and they have resources to make a reasonable accommodation at least for a couple months while you sort this out. Essentially if they assert that you cannot be accommodated because of your condition you are entitled to LTD.

I do agree that you should seek the advice of an attorney who practices employment law on the plaintiff side of the bar.
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Old 11-16-2012, 11:52 PM   #10
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I think you need to hope for the best and plan for the worst. By that I mean don't necessarily assume that your employer won't be cooperative and try to make reasonable accommodations and help you through this issue. At the same time you need to be prepared that they might not do the right thing by consulting with an attorney and learning what your rights and their obligations are before you begin discussions with your employer.
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Old 11-17-2012, 04:36 AM   #11
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Well I am qualified to give medical advice, and my conclusion is the same as yours : the OP should discuss this with a lawyer and his / her clinician.
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I don't feel qualified to give advice, in any case (...) This is the kind of situation where it helps to bounce the problems off a good friend or a professional.
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Old 11-17-2012, 08:06 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by DFW_M5 View Post
To me taking care of your health is top priority. On working with or informing your company, do they have an employee assistance program? If so, it may be better to solicit counsel from them on how to broach this subject with the company before talking to HR or your supervisor.

Hope everything works out OK for you on both fronts.
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I'm sorry, 2early. If it's any consolation, a good neuropsych exam can help figure out exactly what damage has occurred and how to cope with it.

In my opinion, in this situation you get all the justice you can afford to buy. The company has a huge sum of cash (and liability) at stake, and they may be able to afford to drag it out for years.

I think you should lawyer up before approaching anyone at your company. It's a big up-front expense but the payoff can be equally huge.
+1 on getting legal counsel and/or representation. I've dealt with many employee issues (from the management side) and, my experience has been that although HR generally has moral and well intentioned people, they represent the company's interests first and yours second.

I also think that making the employee assistance program your first contact is a good move. As I understand our EA program, it's a 3rd party who is legally bound to maintain confidentiality.
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Old 11-17-2012, 09:19 AM   #13
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My MIL just turned 78 and is going through similar issues. She had an initial MRI which also turned up spots and evidence of mini-strokes. She then had some memory and thinking skills testing done as well as an additional MRI. Doctor says it appears to be vascular cognitive impairment and has prescribed Aricept to help slow progression of the disease. Also said it appears as if she first had mini-strokes about two years ago which coincides with us noticing changes in her behavior. She goes back to the doctor in about a week for results of the testing.

I am no doctor and do not know if your problem is the same as hers but they sound similar. For more info: Vascular Dementia | Signs, Symptoms, & Diagnosis

I would also wait for further results from your doctor before approaching your employer. Take doc's advice into consideration before deciding how to proceed. If disability of some kind is indeed a fact then I would definitely consult an attorney before broaching the subject with your employer. In the meantime, I would, as others have suggested, double check my work and, if possible, have a trusted co-worker also check it for errors.

You have my best wishes for the best possible outcome.
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Old 11-17-2012, 02:45 PM   #14
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I agree with talking to an attorney before going to HR.
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Old 11-17-2012, 02:54 PM   #15
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2early

It sounds as if we have similar experiences that caused problems in the workplace. Originally I thought that the problems were caused by excessive work stress; I had the years and the savings and so I retired to a quieter 60 year old retiree lifestyle.

Being an engineer and adept at software development, I figured that I could keep my mind sharp for the rest of my life... Alas, in spite of the quieter home environment I found over time there were less things that I was competent in... and then one morning I found that I could not remember a single digit number (as in 1 or 2 or 3 etc) if I turned a page. The technologist in me thought this was interesting and that morning I repeated this task numerous times and was never able to remember the single digit character after I turned the page. I decided that something major was happening... and the problem was in MY BRAIN and that I needed to do something major.

I knew that there was remarkable progress in the medical communities which study and treat traumatic brain damage patients. I googled and burrowed through many technologies and considered a lot of options. I figured that it was my only brain that I was concerned about and so money was no object but success was highly desired.

I read about the "Sharp Brain" yearly symposium and many of their presenters' papers - very good stuff!

I ended up choosing a set of computerized pseudo-games (at $80/yr - figuring my brain function is worth it) - after about 3 months my brain mysteriously transformed how I played the system (only way to described...like I went from one gear to another .. it really was amazing to experience).

The bottom line is that these High Tech games originally developed to return functionality to traumatic-brain-patients also appear to be helpful to older patients - The medical community is careful to indicate that there is application beyond but... me... I think that the games are just-plain successful in returning functionality that had been lost to Alzheimers.

JohnP

( By the way I am just another long-time early retirement member - I don't sell anything and I do not receive any commissions - I've been happily retired for almost 10 years)
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Old 11-17-2012, 03:07 PM   #16
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I am not in your situation, so am not in any way qualified to offer advice. I would however caution you that if you intend to approach HR under the expectation that your situation is covered by the American's with Disabilities Act, that you first absolutely confirm that this is true. You likely need competent legal advice from a real lawyer to ascertain if this is so. Approaching HR with an ADA claim and finding out that you are in fact not covered could be disastrous and harm whatever goodwill you have built up over 15 year that might have inclined them to make accommodations, regardless of ADA mandates. Companies do not like to be told what they MUST do. Be extra cautious you are correct if you decide to go this route.
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Old 11-18-2012, 08:14 AM   #17
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I also think that making the employee assistance program your first contact is a good move. As I understand our EA program, it's a 3rd party who is legally bound to maintain confidentiality.
Correct and that is why I suggested that route first. Also, before going to an attorney, I would try to find out from your Dr whether you could reasonably be classified as disabled or someone needing an accomodation (ie ADA). Then seek legal counsel from an employment attorney (thats a specialization) before talking to your employer if the prior avenues suggest doing so. You might even be eligible for long term disability/SS, but no way to know until you go through the steps.
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Old 11-18-2012, 09:46 AM   #18
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I would find someone you know in HR, or just someone who seems easy to talk to, and discuss your issues. The HR people are there to help you in most cases, as well as providing their corporate function.
HR is a tool of management. Do not trust them. Get a lawyer before you talk to anyone at your company. I have seen people with medical issues laid off. Of course they find another official reason.

Make sure that anyone that messes with you is risking their own career. Use their own self interest to protect yourself.

Get a lawyer!
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Old 11-21-2012, 12:48 AM   #19
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I agree with talking to an attorney before going to HR.
I spent years in HR and I agree. HR isn't your enemy, but you need someone who can advocate for YOUR rights. The ADA law requires most employers to make reasonable accommodations. Tolerating mistakes, lowered productivity, missed deadlines - these are not considered reasonable. The ADA isn't a catch all.

Some options to consider.....

1) Take the time you need to get good medical care and advice.
2) if you need time off for this, take advantage of FMLA leave.
3) Determine if you can keep doing your job as expected. Ask your doctor for what kind of accommodations might help you perform your job. For example: do you require a quiet environment? Written work instructions?
4) get the advice of a disability advocate or employment attorney. They may advise you to get your condition "on the record" by making an accommodation request in writing. This will make the company leery of firing you, because they will fear a discrimination complaint.
5) If your company has open enrollment, beef up your disability coverage if possible. Especially if no exam is required.

Plenty of employers treat employees with medical challenges with respect and consideration. I wouldn't assume bad intentions. But I would get good medical and legal counsel on your specific situation.

Good luck!

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Old 11-21-2012, 02:52 AM   #20
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I doubt I have anything intelligent to add to this thread but IMHO, if you "lawyer up", (s)he will want about 1/3 of any settlement including one that might have been offered without counsel. Make sure you have some agreement that protects you from all sides.
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