Archive for category: Original Posts


“Auto” Mobiles: Cars that Drive Themselves

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

It was years ago that I saw a picture of a new prototype Mercedes.  No steering wheel, no gas, brake or clutch – just a joystick that did it all.  My instant thought was of how many of my clients would be able to drive a car like that – it would just take one working upper limb.  No more bulky hand controls, complicated steering apparatus, or wires and cords connecting it all.

More recently I read an article on “cars that drive themselves”.  Amazing.  Imagine that.  Assuming the technology works, these would eliminate accidents, injuries, and the human problems of driving distracted, tired, while texting, eating, putting on mascara, being under the influence, or even getting lost.  It would be like having a driver or a limo every day.  No more tragedies of injury and death at the hands of neglect or mistake.  This has huge potential to help make transportation time both safer and more productive. 

What struck me, however, was that the article I read was written from the perspectives of Ontario insurance companies and body shops. They were expressing concern that “cars that drive themselves” will result in fewer accidents which will lower insurance rates (less insurance profit) and will reduce auto-body repairs.  Sorry, what?  REDUCING accidents is a problem?  I don’t see any health care professionals writing articles or blogs on how devastating it would be to have a reduction in clients who were severely or catastrophically injured in a car accident.  Clearly a health professional would look like a schmuck if they voiced that opinion, as do these deep-pocket and greedy insurers and the body shops they are in bed with.

It just goes to reinforce the problem in Ontario.  Insurance companies cry fraud, losses and keep suffocating benefits without reducing rates.  The government adds restrictions and fees for billing insurance companies and starts to “license” providers.  They blame lawyers, providers, tow-truck drivers, and claimants without looking in house at how they are running their “business”.  Then they show up with an opinion that expresses concern over lost revenue if people stop getting hurt.  Wow.  Disappointing.

I have said it before and will say it again – I would be happy to be out of work if it meant people would stop getting injured in car accidents.  If insurers truly cared about the people they insured they should be all for it.  But then again the incidence of car accidents and resulting injuries have been decreasing for years and our rates have not.  Enough said.


Trouble Sleeping?

Do you have trouble sleeping at night?  You’re not alone!  There are many factors that can lead to sleep difficulties including: stress, work, family, lifestyle, diet and medical conditions.   Sleep is vital to our mental and physical health, and lack of sleep negatively affects productivity and function.  Check out our OT-V video “Improving Sleep” for OT recommended tips to achieve a better sleep.


“Desk-ercise:” Keeping Active at Work

In a recent blog post, we introduced fitness programs at work and the role employers can play in promoting healthy, active lifestyles. As a follow up to this, we are offering some simple, fun and no to low cost ideas for employers and employees to try in an effort to increase daily physical activity during the work day.

·    Take the stairs: Even completing one flight of stairs is a great way to add some cardiovascular exercise into your day and stair climbing is also a great activity to promote strength in the lower limbs. Instead of taking the elevator, opt for the stairs any chance you get. For those that are ambitious, in addition to taking the stairs when you need to, walk or jog a few flights throughout your day or on your break.  Even if you take one flight then hop back on the elevator you have done something positive to get your blood flowing.

·    Walk and Talk Meetings: The concept is simple, but another easy and effective way to add movement to your day. Instead of sitting down for the duration of a meeting, allow employees to walk around the floor or building (outdoors is also a great option, weather permitting).

·    Regular Stretch Breaks: Sedentary lifestyles and long periods of static postures have been shown to have serious consequences for our health. Provide employees with diagrams and education on how to complete simple stretches from their desk or work station to help promote position changes, blood flow and flexibility. A good rule of thumb is to complete the stretches once every hour, or any time you begin to feel stiff.  Can you have a bell ring, have an email sent, or a message pop up to encourage employees to do a “7th inning stretch”?

·    At-Desk Cardio:  You don’t have to pay for cardio.  This can be as simple as jogging in place in front of your desk, lifting your knees high and walking on the spot, or doing jumping jacks. This can be broken up into 15-30 second intervals completed multiple times over the course of your day and can also be a fun way to relieve stress.

·    Wall-Sits for Strength: Find space along a wall or the wall of your cubicle and stand about a foot to a foot and a half away with your back facing the wall. Then lean against it and slide down until your knees are at about 90-degree angles. Hold this position as long as you can (a good rule of thumb is 20 to 60 seconds). Remember to keep your core contracted to help engage your abdominals and support your lower back.

·    Park Farther Away: It seems like common sense yet we have become a society of efficiency and effectiveness, and a prime parking spot that reduces the distance we have to walk is the preferred pick for most people. However, by parking further away, this is an easy way to increase the amount of steps you take in a day and increase your amount of overall body movement. Every step counts!

·    “Glutes” at your Desk: The “glutes” are a group of muscles in our buttocks region and are one of the strongest muscle groups in our body. You can discretely strengthen and tone your glutes simply through squeezing your glutes as hard as you can and holding for 10 seconds. Then fully relax and rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this exercise up to 10 times.

·    Walk it Out: Whether it be on your break, on your lunch, or a pre-determined “activity” break, fit light to brisk walks into your day. Whether it be laps around the office, outside in the parking lot, or around the block, walking helps to improve heart and lung fitness, build stronger bones, and maintain balance. Try walking with a co-worker or offer pre-established routes with information about distance and time so people can select different options to fit their schedules and needs.

·    Add Resistance Training to your “Desk-ercise”: Keep light hand weights in your desk drawer and complete different resistance exercises, such as bicep curls and shoulder presses, a few times per day (if you can’t keep weights in your desk, try using a water bottle). For some great tips on how to safely do these exercises, check out:

·    Bring out your Inner Jordan: Put up a basketball net behind the building, or in a non-traffic area on your property, supply a couple basketballs and encourage staff to go out and shoot hoops on breaks.  Or, for an indoor version hang a net on the back of your office door.

·    Be a Kid Again: Keep a stash of easy and fun equipment in the staff room that all staff can use like skipping ropes, Hula hoops and Frisbees. Can your lunch room accommodate a ping-pong table, indoor shuffle board, air-hockey?  Encourage staff play like kids inside or outside so that people can make use of these at any time over the course of the day.

·    Free Fitness Classes at Work: Organize “activity trial” days with different forms of exercise and physical activity and help from an instructor for staff to try. Many community groups or local fitness organizations are willing to do a promo or trial class for free in hopes of marketing and promoting their business. However, this can also be a fun and healthy way for staff to bond, manage stress and try new things, all while being active. If possible, offer information to help connect staff who enjoyed a particular class or activity to the corresponding organization or community group in hopes of also encouraging regular participation in physical activity outside of work.  Consider yoga, Tai Chi, Martial Arts, Self-Defense, Dance, or even Zumba as some fun options.

For more ways to keep healthy at work, check out our Healthy Workplace page.



Healthy is a Lifestyle, Not Just a Behavior

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

In my work as an occupational therapist I am often asked to help people learn to manage or improve their behavior.  Things they want to stop or start doing, and how to get there, become the topic of our treatment sessions.  But my response in these situations is often the same and my approach is to encourage people to make “lifestyle” and not just “behavior” changes when it comes to improving function or health.  After all, if behavior (be·hav·ior) is: “the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others” and a lifestyle (life·style) is: “the way in which a person or group lives”, then there is a difference between acting and living.  My job is to coach the latter.

The difference in linguistics might seem small, but I would argue it is huge when actually implementing change.  I was reminded of this the other day when taking my daughter to the doctor.  Our doctor’s office is on the second floor.  She entered the building and moved towards the elevator.  I said “sorry Abs, we take the stairs”.  She made a disapproving face and I said “we would take the elevator if we needed to, but we don’t and the stairs align with our healthy lifestyle…race ya…”

I wanted her to know that our decisions need to align with our lifestyle and that deciding to take the stairs is not just a behavioral choice (“how should I act given my choices”)?  It is a way of living that will create the life we want as a family.

I still maintain that the best course I took in University was “Behavior Modification”.  Our project was to modify one of our own behaviors over the four months of the course.  As a dog owner, I chose the behavior of “dog walking” with the goal of making this a more regular routine.  Over the next four months I mapped out routes, increased walking distances and times, monitored my progress, and made a list of great dog walking locations in my community.  By the end of the four months I had adjusted my behavior from walking 20-30 minutes to two hours per day, spread over the morning and evening.  This is a routine I maintained for years – adjusting it as needed to accommodate my life changes along the way.  But my point is that in hindsight, the course did not allow me to modify my “behavior,” because in the end, I modified my “lifestyle” as this ultimately became the way I lived.

When taking that course I was told that it took four months to modify a behavior.  I have since heard that it takes three weeks to develop a new routine.  Perhaps the difference between these is that three weeks is a consistent period to make behavior change, but four months is needed for lifestyle adaptation.

Working with my clients I explain that lifestyle change is a commitment and like many things, requires daily practice.  We need time to reach the goals together, and change cannot and will not happen overnight because if it did, it would not be sustainable.

Spring is here, the sun is out, days are longer…a perfect time to ask yourself what lifestyle you want to have and to develop a plan to take you in that direction.  Don’t over think it.  Go big.  If “healthy” is on your mind, commit to a full out lifestyle change and make your daily decisions align with that.  Take the stairs, adjust your schedule, cut out the sugar, run the marathon, train for the Paralympics, but ultimately commit to a lifestyle and dedicate your energy towards living that way.


Nurture The Mental Health of Your Employees

Nearly half of all Canadians experience some form of mental health concerns at work. Mental health issues are the number one cause of short term and long term disability leave.  So what can be done to create happier, healthier employees who are more productive and miss less time off work?

In Episode 5 of our Occupational Therapy Video (OT-V) Series we discuss how employers, employees, Occupational Therapists and medical teams can help employees overcome mental health stressors and other stressors at work.


40 Years 40 Gratitude’s

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

Milestones are important.  They frame a lifetime.  Whether you are taking your first steps, graduating high school, getting married, or retiring, these life events symbolize where we are at on our journey.  Personally, I am at that mid-life crossroad we call 40.  For some just a number, for others a crisis, or a time to pause, reflect and make a new plan for the next four decades.  For me this is a bit of both.  If 40 is the new 30 I have nothing to complain about.  In fact I think I might be at the top of my game as I turn this corner.  But the transition comes with thoughts, feelings and emotions that have taken time to process.

I started planning 40 at 35.  I wrote a bucket list, developed a five year plan, and started looking forward to this event.  But as it approached my feelings varied between “so what” (who cares) and “so what” (what will I do to celebrate that is memorable and meaningful).  I wanted to celebrate then I didn’t.  I wanted to go away then I wanted to be alone.  At one point I just thought “I am going to own this mid-life crisis and stop perseverating on what it all means”.  Then I got clarity reading the wonderful book “Be Happy”.

One of the exercises in this exceptional book is called 100 Gratitude’s.  Simple but effective, you write down 100 things you are grateful for.  After all, being grateful is above all else on the list of ways to live a happy life.  So I made my list of the things I am thankful for and realized a theme:  it included people, experiences, and simple life pleasures.  Nothing material, vain or things I bought.  Just things I have lived, valued and appreciated in my 40 years.

This gave me an idea.  For my 40th I would write 40 letters of gratitude to those people in my life that I truly cherish.  These letters would be nothing but a positive reflection of how important that person is to me and what it is about them that I am grateful for.  It was important to me that these were “letters” – the old fashioned hand-written and mailed with pen and crafty lined paper.  I am not sure why, but there is something personal and ageless about our handwriting – sloppy or legible.

I did decide to vacation for my birthday.  I had a strong urge to have my feet in the sand and my eyes on the ocean while soaking in the sights, smells and sensations of being alive.  I will be disconnected from the hectic virtual world we all now occupy and will savour the mental clarity this will offer.  Maybe I will make a new bucket list, or a new 5 or 10 year plan, or maybe I won’t.  Perhaps I don’t always have to be so driven and this milestone is about slowing down. I will mail my letters before I leave so these become special surprises to those that know I have reached this milestone with their love surrounding me.

Whether you are over or under the magical number of 40, perhaps consider creative and impactful ways to make life events truly meaningful for both you and the people around you.  After all, the best way to feel grateful is to be grateful.  My exercise of 40 Years and 40 Gratitude’s will cost me some paper, ink, stamps and my time.  Priceless if you ask me.


The Government Gets it Wrong – Again!

Sorry people of Ontario, but I feel that the Financial Services Commission of Ontario (FSCO) is an embarrassment.  In short, FSCO is a FIASCO. 

FIASCO is responsible for regulating and governing our provincial auto insurance product.  And what a mess it is.  If you read up on articles about auto insurance, benefits and changes, the comments are hilarious.  Ontarians seem to have a strong dislike for both FIASCO and Insurance Companies.

Working in this field since 2000, I have witnessed many changes.  Some good, most bad.  I have studied this product and written academic papers on the evolution of this since the SABS was introduced in 1996.  Well, more bad news.

Let me describe it this way:  we are all required to purchase car insurance – it is “mandatory” if we want to drive legally.  Insurance companies are “for profit” and compete with each other to sell this product.  The cheap insurance is typically run by crappy companies that have a culture of “deny first” and these will generally treat you poorly at the time of claim.  Like a family member of mine that was ignored by one such company for 2 years after a serious accident to finally receive a cheque to “go away”, you will get what you pay for.

So here is what is happening now.  In 2010 your benefits, or the product you were paying for at the time of renewal was reduced by 97% for “minor injuries” and by 50% for “severe injuries”.  I wrote about this previously and used the analogy that if you were buying a computer (as a comparison) instead of getting the entire computer, you would now just get the monitor for the same price.  Well recently they came out with the next round of executions.  They are suggesting that the benefits for catastrophic injury (the most severely injured that suffer long term and devastating losses) will also be cut in half.  The seriously injured again get hit with another 15% reduction (a total of 65% in 5 years).  No change to minor injury because the only way to honestly reduce that further would be to axe it altogether.  Here is the direct link to the information about what is happening:

But to drive this home I tried to think of another analogy.  I think it would be like you getting and paying your property tax bill (at its usual rates) to then go and pave your driveway to be told “sorry you don’t own that part of your property anymore – we cut that from your property line last year”.  Or, as taxpayers who pay into OHIP one day we go to the hospital in an emergency and are told “sorry, OHIP doesn’t cover emergencies anymore”.  If the stories were comparable, the government would have told you about these changes in some “fine print” but perhaps you would not have noticed.  In fact, they hope you don’t.  After all, if you truly understood what they were doing before they did it, you would join the fight to make a change.

So what can we do?  My peers, colleagues and clients are going to the MPP’s.  They hope that our elected officials can talk some sense into FIASCO.  However, we have done that before with little resolve.  Sorry government officials, you repeatedly let the people of Ontario down when you don’t help us fight for our basic rights on a mandatory product.  As FIASCO says these changes are for “consumer protection” then we can assume that the result will be drastic reductions to our premiums, right?  If you are cutting my coverage by 97% and 65% I expect an equal reduction in my premiums.  My usual $1000 bill for car insurance on my Caravan will now be $30.00, right?  I am sure my refund is in the mail. 

Please join us in the fight against changes to this product by contacting your local elected MPP.  You can find your local MPP here:


Safety 1st At Work

April 28th is recognized as The World Day for Safety and Health at Work. It is held as an annual international campaign that seeks to promote safe, healthy and decent work environments.  April 28th is also The National Day of Mourning in Canada, which commemorates people who have had an accident or injury in the course of their job. It is important that we are all involved in the initiative to create healthier and safer places of work – workplace safety should not be optional.

The following infographic from Health and Safety Ontario provides you with a snapshot of injuries in Ontario.


Consider these four steps to make sure that health and safety are paramount in your organization:

1.    Get on board: You don’t have to be an owner or boss to be concerned about safety. Everyone is responsible for contributing to a safe workplace.

2.    Get in the know: Understand the hazards and risks at your own workplace.

3.    Get involved: If you see a hazard on the job, speak up and offer your insight and possible solutions.

4.    Get more help: All workers have the right to refuse work if they have reason to believe it is dangerous. Speak to a supervisor if you have concerns, or seek guidance from the Ontario Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008.

Or, if you are off work due to injury or illness and need help returning, would like solutions to help you work more comfortably, or are concerned about the impact of your job on your physical, cognitive or emotional health, consider contacting an occupational therapist. We are here to help.

For more information on creating a healthier and safer workplace, please visit our Healthy Workplace page.


Setting Tech Boundaries: Saying i-Don’t

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)

I don’t think I am alone when I say that I am becoming completely overwhelmed by technology.  Not being a techy person, it took me a while to warm up to email, then to the internet, cell phone use, texting and lastly social media.  Now I have two email accounts, three phone numbers, three websites, a cell, blog, and business and personal Twitter, Linked In, Google+, and Facebook accounts.  I bank online, shop online, do most of my communication by email, manage my business with my phone and computer, and even use an app to meditate.  My life is organized into files and folders that are populated with faxed, emailed or scanned documents that are backed-up, saved to disc, or exported to secure places.  My car can answer my calls, direct me to new places and even tell me when my favorite songs are playing.  My cat has an automatic feeder and my phone is accessed with my fingerprint or voice.  Sometimes people send me an email then text me to tell me they emailed me.  Or, they leave a voicemail then repeat the contents in an email or fax.  Or call me at home, then work, then on my cell. Craziness!

So how many people are ready to tech-out?  I know some days I dream of a home in the wilderness with no Wi-Fi, TV, computer, or cell service.

My love-hate relationship with technology has been an ongoing emotional versus productive battle inside my head for some time.  While I am trying to model appropriate technology behavior for my children, the pace at which the world seems to be operating, and the time sensitive nature of my clinical work, requires me to work-from-home some nights, visit the office on a weekend, and respond to texts afterhours.  I am not proud of this, and feel that I failed miserably in 2014 to keep an appropriate balance.  So, I have vowed that this year will be different.  While I cannot change the pace at which people try to reach me, I can change the pace of my response and can learn to reduce the guilt I often feel when my response is delayed, or when a nice evening at home took priority over my inbox.

Even society is starting to get fed up.  In France it is now illegal for employers to email their employees after hours.  I am not sure such behavior needs to be “illegal” beyond ensuring that the employee cannot be fired or demoted if they don’t respond after-hours, but this law shows the extent to which people feel pressured to communicate at all times – whether it is the right time or not.

I had a comical interaction with a friend one night that highlights this.  Working late, I had sent him an email asking a question about a service they provided.  He responded quickly with a “yes”, while failing to answer my other questions.  I humorously responded with a “thanks for your wordy response” to which he added “considering that I am out with my wife for our anniversary I think I said too much”.  Agreed.

So in an effort to not repeat my mistakes of 2014, I have set some firm tech boundaries for 2015.  Some of my strategies include:

1.  Work at Work.  I have an office at which I am extremely productive.  Lugging my computer back and forth from work to home is not good for it, my back, and tends to anchor my evenings to work when I have a list of other things I would like to be doing.   So, in 2015 I am leaving my computer at the office.  So far this means I am behind on my emails and have not tackled many things on my “to do list” but my family is enjoying my presence and my evenings are much less stressful.  And the real secret here is that I have noticed a definite DECLINE in the amount of emails I am getting since I started getting behind.  I guess people are finding other ways to solve their problems versus asking me.  Perfect.

2.  Phone Off.  In speaking with my techy husband, I asked about ways I could set some firm boundaries with my phone.  I wanted to limit texts from work contacts and stop my business email from surfacing on my phone after 5pm and on weekends.  Low and behold with an iPhone you can’t do that. Sure I can use airplane mode, or do not disturb, but this limits contacts from all people, and there are some people (my friends and family included) that I would like to be able to communicate with at any time.  So, I visited Roger’s and they too confirmed that I can’t be selective about who, how and when people can reach me.  My options then were just to behave differently (don’t check email or texts from work contacts), or to get an entirely different phone with a new number and “personal email only” set-up for after-hours.  While I still believe that one email or text can completely derail an evening or weekend, for now I have decided that when home my phone will be anchored to a spot in the kitchen on airplane mode.  When out, I will do my best to not read or respond to work messages until the following business day.

3.  Go Public.  To get the support of my team, I told them my plans for 2015.  This included my work hours and desire to set firm boundaries around my technology time.  We realigned our operations to divide roles and duties to reduce the triplication of emails to multiple people, and to ensure that people had clear lines of accountability – instead of their habit of going to the person they thought would respond first (typically me).  My team was very supportive and I have noticed a sharp decline in after-hours emails since I told them of my plans.  I also involved my family in my decision to leave my computer at the office and to limit after-hours phone time so that they too can encourage me along the way.

No, I am not perfect and will slide at times with the boundaries I am trying to set.  But even if I can accomplish half of my intention, I am 50% better than my experience of last year.  In the end, I guess I just want my enjoyable life to include a reasonable amount of technology, and not for technology to result in an unenjoyable life.