Archive for category: Seniors Health


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.


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.


O-Tip of the Week: Consider the Benefits of A Furry Friend

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

For the month of February, Heart Month, our O-Tip series will feature Heart Smart Life Hacks.

Consider adopting a dog.  While choosing to have a dog, or a pet of any kind, is a big decision not to be entered into lightly, research shows that having a dog can improve your health, both mentally and physically.  Learn more about a new study who’s findings indicate owning a dog is associated with lower risk of heart disease in the following care of CNN.

CNN:  Want to live longer? Get a dog


Community Safety for Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Impairment

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

In recognition of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, I wanted to touch on the important topic of helping people with Alzheimer’s disease (or cognitive impairment) to be safe in the community.

A few months back I received an email from a friend. She wanted to “pick my brain” about a problem they were encountering with her father who has Alzheimer’s disease. She mentioned that he enjoys spending time in the community on his own, but the family was growing increasingly concerned about his safety. She was wondering if I had any suggestions on how they could monitor his community activities, and be able to locate him should he not return home when expected.

My experience working in brain injury has had me looking for such solutions in the past. Some people, with behavioral or cognitive impairment, are at risk in the community because they become disoriented, confused, lose track of time, or are not attentive to traffic. There is such a loss of independence for people to be told they cannot leave the home alone, and some become agitated or angry when people try to supervise their activities. Yet, even a familiar route can become a problem for people if their cognitive status changes or deteriorates, and what is manageable one day may become problematic the next. Part of my role as an occupational therapist when dealing with cognitive impairment is to problem solve with the client and family the ways we can help them to pursue their goal of independence outside the home, while also ensuring their safety and easing the mind of the care provider. There are several ways to do this, and the list below is not exhaustive by any means.

  1. Consider the local Police Departments. These often have programs and ways to track people at risk of wandering. It is also helpful to notify the police about a potential wanderer so this is in their records should their help be needed.
  2. The S-911 bracelet has multiple features that allows health care workers and families to GPS locate anyone that may have wandered off, or who is in the community unsupervised. There is a monthly and yearly fee for this device.
  3. The Loc8tor is another option and notifies a care giver (or parent of a child for that matter) if the person wearing the device has wandered up to a certain distance away. The Loc8tor is also useful for helping people to find those items that tend to get misplaced – such as keys, wallets and cell phones.
  4. Smartphones have GPS detection capabilities such as the “Find my Friends” application for the iPhone. With this, both users can locate the other person, but it does require the person to be carrying the phone, and the phone to be charged and on. This can be a problem for people with cognitive impairment as they may not always remember to take the phone with them when out, may not understand how to turn this on and / or to check and see if it is charged.
  5. There are home monitoring systems that can notify family when people are coming or going, or even bed alarms if people leave the bed at night. Motion sensors in the home can also help to notify family if someone is wandering or moving between locations indoors. While these don’t work to locate or ensure someone’s safety outside the home, they are a way to give family members piece of mind to go about business inside the home without always needing to provide the person with cognitive impairment constant supervision.

Remember that Occupational Therapy is about helping people to solve the problems that arise when physical, emotional or cognitive abilities change rendering daily activities to become a struggle. In all cases, because disability is experienced differently by everyone, the solution for one person may not be the solution for another – even when dealing with the same diagnosis. So, consult an OT if you have a functional problem to solve!

Previously Posted September 2014


Meal Preparation: Tips to Save Time and Energy

Making healthy and satisfying meals takes a lot of time and energy.  For those living with injury, illness, or the effects of aging cooking can become something that easily zaps precious energy.  The following care of Tru-Therapy Kitchen, an OT website focused on promoting optimal function and independence in the kitchen, discusses 5 great “hacks” that can help save time and energy when making meals.

Tru-Therapy Kitchen:  5 Energy Conservation Tips for Meal Prepping


O-Tip of the Week: Properly Recover from a Fall

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

For the month of November, Fall Prevention Month, our O-Tip series will concentrate on preventing falls at home and in the community.

Despite best efforts to reduce the risk of falling at home and in the community, falls DO still occur.  It is important to be aware of the steps to take to get up from a fall to help prevent further injury.

The following from the 2017 Fall Prevention Month Toolkit provides step-by-step instructions to safely get up from a fall:  

Find more helpful resources on Fall Prevention by visiting




O-Tip of the Week: Safer Transitions

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

For the month of November, Fall Prevention Month, our O-Tip series will concentrate on preventing falls at home and in the community.

Falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians with 20-30% of seniors experiencing one or more falls each year (Statistics Canada).  With seniors most falls often happen when someone is just trying to go about their day by having a shower, coming down the stairs, or taking a leisurely walk.

This week’s O-Tip of the Week returns to the bathroom, which can be the most dangerous room in the home, especially for seniors.  Transitions into and out of the tub or shower are often the cause of falls in the bathroom.  The installation of grab bars in the tub or shower can greatly reduce this risk.  An Occupational Therapist can help by assessing the older adult’s functional status and reviewing the hazards in their environment that may put them at risk for falling.

Learn more helpful fall prevention tips for older adults from our infographic:  An OT Knows How to Help Seniors Age in Place.



O-Tip of the Week: Shed Some Light on Fall Prevention

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

For the month of November, Fall Prevention Month, our O-Tip series will concentrate on preventing falls at home and in the community.

This week’s O-Tip of the Week focuses on a simple, yet often forgotten aspect of the home that can prevent falls:  proper lighting. 

Seniors need to be attuned to the physical, balance and vision changes they are experiencing as they age, and need to consider the importance of proper lighting to help them navigate and reduce the risk of falls in their living spaces.  Helpful and simple lighting suggestions may include:

–        Night lights around the home

–        A bed side lamp

–        Illuminated light switches

–        Storage of flashlights in the bedrooms, the kitchen and bathrooms

–        Change of light fixtures to provide both ambient and task lighting based on needs

An Occupational Therapist can assist in assessing the living space to suggest lighting modifications and more.  Learn more about how OT’s assist in fall reduction in our OT-V Episode, Fall Prevention.


O-Tip of the Week: Hydrate to Prevent Falls

Our O-Tip of the week series we will be providing valuable “OT-Approved Life Hacks” to provide you with simple and helpful solutions for living. 

For the month of November, Fall Prevention Month, our O-Tip series will concentrate on preventing falls at home and in the community.

This week’s O-Tip of the Week focuses on a simple way to prevent dizziness and balance issues which can lead to falls:  hydration. 

Learn more about how to properly hydrate yourself in the following post from our blog Help with Hydration – How Many Glasses Do You Really Need?

Learn more helpful fall prevention tips from our infographic:  An OT Knows How to Prevent Falls: