Archive for category: Occupational Therapy At Work


Living with Cancer: OT Can Help

Cancer and cancer treatment can lead to changes in how we do our daily activities due to physical, cognitive or emotional changes resulting from the diagnosis, resulting surgery, medications, chemo and radiation. For a cancer patient sometimes just doing daily activities leaves little energy for leisure, social, or work-related tasks.  Common side effects of cancer or its treatment include fatigue, pain, weakness, cognitive difficulties, anxiety or depression, and changes in self-esteem or self-image. Each person diagnosed with cancer will experience different challenges in his or her participation in various daily activities and life roles over the course of the disease.

Occupational therapists have knowledge and expertise to allow individuals with cancer to do the things they want and need to do to maintain their level of independence and quality of life. Occupational therapy services are helpful for individuals throughout the continuum of cancer care, including those who are newly diagnosed, undergoing treatment, receiving hospice or palliative care, or who are survivors reintegrating into previous roles. Caregivers also benefit from the training and education provided by OT’s as this arms them with the essential tools to offer support and assistance to their loved ones when performing daily, important, and meaningful activities.

Take a look at the following infographic to learn more about how Occupational Therapists can help:

Previously posted April 2017.


Can you “Catch” Stress Like you Catch a Cold?

The short answer… yes!  Science has proven that stress is contagious and that basically, being around people who are stressed can change your brain in the same way.  Learn the details of this incredibly interesting study in the following care of The National Post.

The National Post:  Your stress can actually change your partner’s brain, study suggests

Learn more about the effects of stress and ways to manage it from our popular post, How Stress is Affecting Your Health.


Distracted Driving Kills: Will Harsher Penalties Make a Difference?

The other day I was traveling on a major highway as I was heading to a shopping center.  I had five teenagers with me – my own four kids and a significant other.  We were in the middle lane and the mini-van in front of us was slowly drifting.  It would drift a bit right then correct, a bit left then correct.  Sometimes it would go slightly over the line, sometimes a lot.  Years ago I would have assumed that the person driving might have been drinking.  This time I said to my car full of teens “I bet this person is texting and driving – watch them”.  The teens acknowledged quickly that the car was definitely all over the place.  I decided to speed up and pass this vehicle (much safer for us to have her behind us than in front of us).  As we passed her, sure enough, this middle-aged looking woman was texting.  I honked and we all stared at her as we passed.  I hope she got the point.  And yes, sure, maybe she was texting a dying relative, telling a sick child she was “on her way” to get them from school, or solidifying the best business deal of her life…but, in the end, she was being selfish, insensitive and unsafe.  Not to mention was breaking the law.  If anything was more important in that moment then her need to drive her car safely then she needed to pull off the highway, deal with the issue and then continue on her way.

The benefit I have is that I work with people who may have been injured by their own “it won’t happen to me” mentality, or by others that have caused horrible accidents driving like this.  So, I drive with heightened awareness.  And people I am sorry, but it is pretty obvious what you are doing when your head is anywhere but forward while you are operating a vehicle.  I see several people a day texting or holding a phone to their ear while behind the wheel.  It is still COMMON.

I fully support these New Laws for Distracted Driving.  I also would support any opportunity to have a passenger in my car take a photo or video of a distracted driver to post online or to fire off to Crime Stoppers to deter this type of behavior.  I agree that “no text is worth a life” – even your own.



Living with Autism: Occupational Therapy Can Help!

It is estimated that Autism Spectrum Disorder affects over 3 million individuals in the U.S. and tens of millions worldwide.

Occupational Therapy plays an important role in helping individuals living with autism.  Learn many of the ways an OT can support individuals and their families in the following infographic:


Living with Epilepsy and the Role of Occupational Therapy

March 26th has been designated Purple Day across the globe in honour of epilepsy awareness. Individuals are encouraged to wear purple clothing, local organizations host events, and many of our nation’s landmarks will also be bathed in purple light to increase awareness of the need for research about epilepsy.

Increase your awareness and learn how Occupational Therapy can assist those living with epilepsy and their families to live life to the fullest in the following infographic.


Sleep: Does it Change with Age?

Sleep is one of the most important determinants of health.  Proper sleep helps to restore our minds and bodies so that we are able to effectively tackle another day.  Sleep supports growth and development, and helps with the body’s healing process.  However, knowing how many hours a person actually needs each night is difficult as this differs from person to person and can change with age.

Learn more about sleep and how it can change as we age in the following care of the McMaster Optimal Aging Portal.

McMaster Optimal Aging Portal:  Sleep and aging: How many zzz’s are optimal to stay healthy?

If you struggle with sleep take a look at our OT-V Episode, Improving Sleep, for some solutions that can help.


Your Best Brain: Use It or Lose It

The old cliché is true when we talk of cognition – “use it or lose it”.

Our brains are made of billions of neurons, which interact with each other to complete specific tasks. Signals are sent from one neuron to another along neural pathways, and these determine our thoughts, emotions, insights, and so much more. Each task relies on a different neural pathway, so the pathway for reading a book is different than the pathway for putting on our shirt. The more we use a pathway, the stronger the connection becomes.

These neurons have the ability to physically change themselves when faced with new and difficult experiences. This ability is called neuroplasticity. As we are exposed to new areas, tasks, information or experiences, neural pathways are formed and existing ones are reshaped. This will continue throughout our entire lives as we learn. As we have experienced through practicing a musical instrument, memorizing our shopping list or recalling a friend’s phone number, if we consciously focus and train our brains in a certain area, they will become faster and more efficient at performing those tasks.

Just as we need to exercise the muscles in our body, we also need to exercise our brain.

Some great ways to keep “work up a cognitive sweat” include:

  •         Online cognitive training programs and apps
  •         Playing board games
  •         Reading books
  •         Completing puzzles such as a daily crossword or Sudoku
  •         Learning a new language or skill
  •         Getting artistic

Try our 30 Day Healthy Brain Challenge to help you find other ways to boost your brain and prevent cognitive decline.


Ways to Care for Yourself as a Caregiver

Caregivers do not really “elect” the role. They are not trained to be a caregiver, and really just try to do their best with the skills and resources they possess. However, where many fall short is maintaining their own health and well-being in dedicating their physical and emotional time to another person.  We have penned many blog posts about the importance of caregivers avoiding burnout by asking caregivers to “put on their own oxygen masks first.”  The following care of Alzlive provides some fun and specific ideas for caregivers to try to ensure they are concentrating on their own health as well as that of their loved one.

Alzlive:  Tack on Fridge:  Fun Tips for Caregiver Wellness


How Can Occupational Therapists Best Support Older Adults as they Transition to Non-Drivers?

Guest Blogger Lauren Heinken, Occupational Therapist

It’s winter, and with the season comes decreased daylight and increased risk of weather-related adverse driving conditions. These factors can contribute to a higher incidence of motor vehicle collisions, and this may be particularly true for older adult drivers who are experiencing physical and cognitive health changes. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) reports that senior drivers with cognitive impairment/dementia have up to 4.7 times the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle collision. The MTO’s Senior Driver License Renewal Program operates in an effort to ensure that older adult drivers are screened for health changes that may impact their ability to drive. Occupational Therapists (OTs) may be involved in the process by administering the screening tools that can play a role in determining an individual’s fitness-to-drive; however, physicians and the MTO work together to ultimately decide whether an individual is able to maintain their license or not.

Many older adults see driving as imperative for maintaining their independence, especially if they have been lifelong drivers or are relatively unfamiliar with other forms of transportation. More physically demanding forms of transportation, walking to bus stops, or cycling, may no longer be viable alternatives for many. Outside of the main urban centres, Canada’s population is dispersed across great geographic distances; in more rural areas, public transportation services may be sparse if available at all. The distances individuals need to travel on a frequent basis to access services and participate in activities of their choosing are often great. As health professionals who focus on helping individuals find ways to engage in their chosen occupations, it fits that OTs should be involved in supporting older adults who have lost, or are at risk of losing, their ability to drive.  OTs can work with their clients to minimize the way in which losing one’s license influences overall quality of life and ability to engage in chosen occupations.

As with any major life change, planning for the loss of one’s drivers license well in advance can help to limit the impact of the change when it happens. After all options for ensuring and promoting someone’s ability to drive safely have been exhausted, the next responsible therapist-client step would be to initiate discussions related to transportation alternatives, regardless of whether or not this lifestyle change will be occurring in the near future. It is understandable that OTs may be reluctant to initiate these discussions as safe continuation of driving is often an emotionally charged subject and can lead to very difficult conversations.  Introducing the subject slowly and matching the content of the conversation to the client’s comfort level can help to limit any negative effects on the OT-client therapeutic relationship. Below is a proposed progression of an OTs involvement with a client who has lost, or is at risk of losing their ability to drive.





OTs should let the changing seasons serve as a reminder to consider initiating these discussions during client sessions. Although clients may be unreceptive and unwilling NOW to accept intervention aimed at preparing for this lifestyle change for LATER, a brief discussion may be enough to get them thinking about this important topic to help them adjust to the possibility when / if it arises.  Sometimes as therapists the ideas we introduce early are not accepted for months or years later, but our role includes having the patience to work with clients around their comfort level and to support change when they are ready to accept it.