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Archive for category: Solutions For Living

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The Benefits of OT for Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is a condition that is most often caused by brain damage which occurs before or during the birth of an infant, or within the first few years of a child’s life.  Cerebral Palsy, can affect motor skills, muscles and movement.  Those with Cerebral Palsy are often able to lead a normal and satisfying life, and Occupational Therapists can often help them to achieve this.  The following article from My Child: Cerebral Palsy Foundation discusses some of the key ways Occupational Therapy can assist those living with Cerebral Palsy.

My Child Cerebral Palsy Foundation:  Occupational Therapy

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Be Prepared on the Road

While driving is usually simply an adventure of fighting traffic to get from point A to point B, sometimes circumstances beyond our control can get in the way.  Weather conditions, breakdowns, accidents and more can leave you stranded at the side of the road.  As a driver it’s important to be prepared for these situations by having emergency items in your vehicle at all times.  Many kits can be purchased online and at local retailers, or you can create your own emergency car kit, but ensuring you have these basic items in your trunk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more helpful tools visit our Printable Resources Page.

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The Secrets to Successfully Managing Your Time

Time is precious.  As we all try to cram more into our days, weeks, and nights we are creating unsustainable expectations for ourselves and for those that rely on each of us to get stuff done.  Whether working on a specific project or working to keep home, family and career running smoothly, the tips in the following infographic “Secrets to Successfully Managing Your Time” can help you to stay organized, stay focused and get things done!

 

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Wash Your Car – Save a Life!

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

Previously posted February 2014

Working in auto insurance makes me slightly paranoid about issues of vehicle safety.  Ideally, it would be great if car accidents could become extinct and people could go about their business without running the risk of becoming injured in their travels, but currently these remain one of the main causes of adult and child injury, death and disability.  May is National Car Care Month and maximizing car safety should be on the top of everyone’s list year-round.

Years ago, in the middle of winter, I was driving home from seeing a client at night.  I was on back roads that were not lit.  My headlights were on, but I could barely see the road in front of me.  I struggled with this, assuming I had a headlight out, and managed to get to a gas station.  There, I investigated the problem and realized my headlights were just covered in the road sludge so common in Ontario winters.  I cleaned up my headlights with a window squeegee and voila!  I could see again

Prior to this, the thought of washing my headlights never occurred to me.  Why would it?  Unless you encounter a problem, this is not something I remember being taught in driver’s ed, nor something my parents mentioned to look for as I was learning to drive.  Some things we just learn in life the hard way – hoping to not be hurt in the process.

I remember when cars started to be manufactured to have headlights on automatically and all the time.  I said to my brother “I don’t get why headlights should be on during the day, they won’t help a driver to see better” and he responded with “it is so other people can see you better”, I am sure adding a brotherly “dummy” in there too.

The other day I was reminded of these lessons again.  It was a sunny day, but the roads had been a mess a few days prior.  I was driving in the right lane and needed to change into the left lane to make an upcoming left turn.  I glanced in my dirty side mirror and my rear mirror which was looking out my dirty back window, and I didn’t see anyone.  I checked my side mirror again, and noticed something that looked odd.  I focused more clearly and realized that there was another car to the left of me after all.  This was a black car, covered in the grey muck from the roads.  The lights weren’t on, and what struck me was how much this car was essentially the color of the road.   The road was a grey, dirt covered mess, and this car blended right in.  Had the lights been on, or the car clean, I would have spotted this easily.

Really, both these issues with visibility when driving – to see and be seen – could be tackled with a simple car wash.  Even if this seems futile with changing weather conditions, the short-term benefits are immense.  A clean car is easier for others to see, gives you better visibility when the windows and side mirrors are clear, and washes your headlights to make sure these are most effective.  Besides, of course, the other benefits of washing road salt and dirt from your paint job.  Many gas stations have a quick car wash adjacent to the pump, and allow you to pay at the pump for convenience.  Or, some car washes are even a drive-thru format and you don’t even have to leave your car.  In the end, when it comes to road and driving safety, the added expense of giving your car a rinse could be “priceless”.

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Aquatic Therapy: Is it Right for you?

Guest Blogger: Carolyn Rocca, Student Occupational Therapist

Water has long been associated with health and healing, making it an excellent tool for rehabilitation. Aquatic therapy, also referred to as pool therapy or hydrotherapy, is one way in which water can be used for therapeutic purposes following injury or illness.

Aquatic therapy refers to water-based treatments or exercises aimed to enable physical rehabilitation, fitness, and relaxation for therapeutic purposes. Treatments and exercises are performed while floating, partially submerged, or fully submerged in water, usually in specialized temperature-controlled pools. The key difference between this form of therapy and land therapy is that movement is facilitated by the physical properties of water, particularly it’s density and specific gravity, hydrostatic pressure, buoyancy, viscosity, and thermodynamics (Becker, 2009).

Due to the specific facilitating properties of water, aquatic therapy can have several benefits for people who have loss or restriction of joint motion, strength, mobility, or function as a result of a specific disease or injury. Aquatic therapies are beneficial in the management of musculoskeletal issues, neurological conditions, and cardiopulmonary problems. More specifically, there is evidence to support that people with fibromyalgia, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke, and chronic pain, as well as people who have undergone surgeries such as total knee and total hip replacements, can significantly benefit from aquatic therapy (CARI, 2014).

The benefits of hydrotherapy will depend on the purpose of why it is being used in your rehabilitation plan, what it is aiming to target, and the type of exercise being completed in the water. In general, there is evidence to support that within a wide range of ages and abilities, hydrotherapy may help people to increase their endurance and strength, improve balance and postural control, reduce perceived pain and muscle spasms, reduce joint pain and stiffness, aid in gait retraining, and improve functional mobility. Additional benefits can include the facilitation of relaxation, improved quality of life, as well as providing opportunities for socialization (CARI, 2014).

A key to the success of many aquatic therapy procedures is the constant attendance and guidance provided by a trained therapist. This can be any rehabilitation professional, such as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, PTA/OTA, etc., who has taken additional and specific training in basic or advanced aquatic physical therapy. The rehab professional’s expertise will be able to match your abilities with the appropriate properties of water to achieve an optimum balance between facilitation and challenge. By adjusting the immersion temperature, type and intensity of activity, level of resistance, use of equipment, and treatment duration the therapist will be able to assist your recovery by gradually increasing the amount of challenge to eventually help you to transition to land exercises.

An added bonus to the therapeutic benefits of aquatic therapy is that it can help to introduce or re-connect you to a leisure interest, and can offer a social outlet. For example, a current client of mine has recently begun pool therapy following injuries sustained in a motor-vehicle collision. Not only will this help in her recovery while she begins to regain strength and function in her legs, but will also re-connect her to her passion for swimming, as this was something she loved to do with friends prior to her accident. Additionally, there is evidence to support that infants and toddlers with mobility impairments that engaged in aquatic therapy can experience significant functional gains in mobility compared to children who solely received land therapy, and that their parents noticed an increase in their socialization and enjoyment while in the pool. In this particular study, the children’s parents then reported an increased willingness and comfort in bringing their children to community pools following aquatic therapy (McManus, & Kotelchuck, 2007), therefore further increasing their future leisure and social opportunities.

Thus, aquatic therapy has the potential to improve physical function, as well as increase community involvement, socialization opportunities, and participation in physical activities. Additionally, this form of therapy can be appropriate and beneficial for all ages and abilities. If you feel that aquatic therapy may be a great addition to your rehabilitation and recovery, speak to your rehabilitation professional about some of the opportunities available in your community.

 

References & Resources

Becker, B. E. (2009). Aquatic therapy: scientific foundations and clinical rehabilitation applications. PM&R, 1(9), 859-872.

Canadian Aquatic Rehab Instructors (CARI) website: http://www.aquaticrehab.ca/

Canadian Aquatic Rehab Instructors (CARI) website link to research (2014). Retrieved from http://www.aquaticrehab.ca/research

McManus, B. M., & Kotelchuck, M. (2007). The effect of aquatic therapy on functional mobility of infants and toddlers in early intervention. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 19(4), 275-282.

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10 000 Steps: Is This the Magic Number?

Wearable fitness devices have set a benchmark of 10 000 steps a day for good health.  Have you ever wondered where this number came from?  And is this the right number for you?  The following article from the Huffington Post delves deeper into where this benchmark came from and how to set the target that is right for you.

The Huffington Post:  What Science Actually Says About Taking 10,000 Steps A Day

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Simple Solutions for Seasonal Home Maintenance

It is commonly suggested to change your smoke alarm batteries when we change the clocks to either Spring Forward or Fall Backward.  But what other home maintenance tasks should you be doing and when?  Download our free Seasonal Home Maintenance Checklist to help you keep your home healthy, safe and in good repair year-round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For other helpful tools please visit our Printable Resources page.

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Cognition and Aging – 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.

So, how can we use this knowledge to try and combat age-related cognitive decline?  Check out our latest episode of OT-V:  Cognition and Aging – Keeping the Mind Sharp to learn some proven strategies. 

 

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13 Reasons Why NOT to Watch

The new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has become a popular topic of conversation for both adults and youth, both online and in person.  Many kids will watch this before their parents even know that they have.  Yet, parents beware because the content in this is apparently both graphic and at times, disturbing.  In fact, the content is so concerning that school boards and even the Canadian Mental Health Association have issued statements cautioning viewers of this series:  CMHA National Statement Responding to Netflix Series: 13 Reasons Why

Personally, I take no pleasure in watching gory or graphic content of rape and suicide and do not see the value in sensationalizing this for the youth of today.  However, others argue that this series aims to deter suicide by showing how disturbing this can be.  At the least, know what your children are watching and heed the warnings.  Mental Health and Suicide are very sensitive topics – not to be taken lightly.   

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Parents Alert! The Signs of Mental Health Challenges in Children and Teens

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

I was recently reviewing my daughter’s school handbook and noticed the section on child and youth mental health.  According to this (and the Canadian Mental Association) 1 in 5 children and youth struggle with mental health problems.  While great strides have been made over the last several years to destigmatize and demystify mental health problems in both adults and kids, I feel this remains generally misunderstood.  In my practice, I still see the common misperceptions that people with anxiety don’t leave the house or appear nervous and anxious in public, or that people with depression sleep all day, don’t attend to their appearance, and sit around crying and feeling sorry for themselves.  The truth is that mental health is a spectrum, or a continuum if you will.  It can vary and no one’s experience will be the same.  In children, mental health problems can present differently.  As per the handbook I was reading, the signs might include:

·        Anxiety and fear that does not go away

·        Frequent crying and weepiness

·        Loss of interest in activities that were a source of pleasure in the past

·        Difficulty concentrating

·        Lack of energy or motivation

·        Problems at school with falling marks

·        Withdrawal from family, friends and school activities

·        Increased school absences

·        Loss or increase in appetite

·        Sleeping too much or too little

·        Increased irritability, anger or aggression

·        Neglect of personal appearance

·        Frequent stomach aches or headaches

·        Increased alcohol or drug use

In general, parents should be able to monitor most of these and overt changes might be obvious (suddenly disconnecting from friends, drastic changes in grades, behavior change at home, quitting enjoyed activities, not eating food or participating in meal times, etc).  But like with the continuum of mental health in adults, some of these might present some days and not others, or be so subtle that they deteriorate very slowly over time.   As parents of teens we need to be the barometer for our kids as they may lack the ability to relate some of these signs to mental health or internal struggle.

Luckily, in Southern Ontario anyway, I see the mental health problems of kids being taken seriously and there are publicly funded community supports available.  But getting your child connected with these can be the challenge.  It can be hard to convince a teen to do anything they don’t agree with, let alone getting them to the myriad of appointments with doctors and clinicians that can help.

Occupational therapy plays many roles in helping kids and teens address issues with mental health.  While some occupational therapists are trained to provide psychotherapy, others use meaningful and enjoyable tasks to help with mood elevation, reactivation and reengagement.  We are skilled at looking beyond the obvious to get a better sense of what might help at home, school or in the community to get your child or teen on track.  Sometimes it is as simple as helping them to reorganize their school work, create a process for managing assignments and tests, teaching them how to study in a way that works for them based on their learning style, or even looking at how their week is managed to make changes.  Occupational therapists tackle things like sleep / wake schedules, eating and diet, activity participation, grades and school success, managing friends and relationships, motivation through engagement, and dealing with negative pressures that create more stress and anxiety.

My advice if you are concerned about your child?  Start with your family doctor and discuss your concerns, even if your child won’t attend with you.  Involve the school in your concerns to get their support and guidance, after all your child spends several hours a day in their supervision and care.  Teachers can be a great resource and form of support as well, but you need to open those lines of communication.  Don’t expect the school to come to you – often they don’t.  If your child is in crisis, call your local Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COAST) and ask them for help.  They can (and should) also connect you and your child to other community programs.

If you have coverage for mental health treatment for your teen (extended benefits, other insurance funding, out-of-pocket), including occupational therapy, consider enlisting a private therapist.  Private therapy often provides a larger scope of service, is more specialized, and can be provided over a prolonged period if appropriate.  Any good private therapist will try to work themselves out of a job by getting your child on track as quickly as possible and they will want you to immediately feel the benefit of their involvement.  Also, if you have private dollars or insurance coverage, I would suggest a psycho-educational assessment.  These are extremely thorough “brain tests” that look at all aspects of how your child processes information, manages cognitive tasks, and addresses the complicated relationship between our brain and our emotions.  The outcome of these assessments can be extremely helpful, and will provide both you as a family, and the school, with suggestions for how to best help your child to succeed.

I have always said watching my kids grow up is the best and worst part of parenting.  It is especially heart-wrenching if your child is struggling.  Watch for the signs, talk to your child and get them (and you!) support if they need it.