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Archive for category: Solutions For Living

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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

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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

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O-Tip of the Week: When Creating Goals Use Proactive and Positive Language

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 January our O-Tip series will concentrate on creating achievable resolutions and goals for the new year.

When creating your goals try changing the phrases “I hope to” or “I want to” to “I WILL.”   Let the power of a proactive and positive mind guide you to success this year!

Learn more about how the phrases you use can help you achieve success this year in the following article from our blog.

Solutions for Living:  Say “I Will…” this New Year

 

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Blue Monday and Beyond — How to Beat the Winter Blues

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

I made a comment after the Holidays that I was slowly recovering from Christmas Affective Disorder.  For me, Christmas is stressful, hectic and challenging.  I struggle with it every year.  After the seasonal rush, it takes me days, or even weeks, to get back to my normal equilibrium.  However, really, winter despair is not a joke and for some, can be debilitating.

In fact, some research suggests that up to 15% of people in Ontario experience the “winter blues”. These leave you feeling tired, groggy, and maybe even sad or irritable.  While this causes discomfort, it is not incapacitating.  However, a more serious form of the winter blues, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), can be.  While occurring less frequently at 2-3% of the population, the symptoms can prevent individuals from leading a normal life.  Symptoms of SAD include decreased energy, changes in appetite, especially leading to cravings for starchy or sweet foods, oversleeping and weight gain, among other things.  If you feel this is you, talk to your doctor and have your symptoms investigated.

The problem is not always the blues, but how these create a negative behavior cycle.  When you feel down, you revert, avoid, or change habits.  This leads to feeling worse and the cycle continues.  Occupational therapists (OTs) recognize the importance of being engaged in activities that are meaningful, active and productive, and understand how these contribute to health and well-being. In fact, one of the best treatments for beating the winter blues involves just “keep on keeping on” by doing what you normally do every day.  Some tips include:

  1. Use behavioral activation to keep your normal routine.  Make the bed, have a shower, prepare a decent breakfast, walk to the mail box.  Don’t change habits that are ingrained just because it is winter.  Never underestimate how damaging it can be if you avoid even small things that ultimately add up to a productive day.  Gradually try to get back to those important tasks if you have found that your daily behaviors have become unproductive.
  2. Stay active. Those that love the winter do so because they get outdoors.  Walk, ski, skate, toboggan – something to help you appreciate how wonderful a change of seasons can be.  This is best facilitated by proper clothing that will keep you warm.  If exercise is tough for you, build it into your day by default – park farther from the door, use the stairs, make a few trips from the car with the groceries to get the blood flowing.
  3. Consider light therapy. Sit by the window at lunch, get some fresh air when the sun is out, or consider purchasing an artificial light for your use at home.
  4. Up the nutrients. When some bad eating habits creep into your winter these can be hard to break come spring, and only contribute to further mood declines.  Shop in the fruit and veggie isles, and avoid the isles that house the bad foods you seem to be eating too much of.

Finding ways to help you do the things you want to, need to, or enjoy, is at the heart of occupational therapy. While the winter months can be long, dark, and cold, ultimately how we adapt to the seasonal change is up to us.  If moving or going south is not an option, consider some of the above tips to make the winter bearable, or dare I say, even enjoyable?

 

Resources:

Seasonal Affective Disorder. (Canadian Mental Health Association, 2013) http://www.cmha.ca/mental_health/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/
Beat The Winter Blues (Readers Digest, no date) http://www.readersdigest.ca/health/healthy-living/beat-winter-blues
Kurlansik, SL & Ibay, AD. (2012).
Seasonal Affective Disorder. Am Fam Physician. 2012 Dec 1;86(11):1037-1041.
10 Winter Depression Busters for Seasonal Affective Disorder (Borchard, no date) http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/12/30/10-winter-depression-busters-for-seasonal-affective-disorder/

 

Previously Posted January 2017

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Better Health: Is There an App For That?

At this time of year people are focused on finding ways to improve their health and well-being.  A great way to facilitate this is through the use of technology, specifically helpful apps.  The App Store and Google Play Store feature thousands of apps for health, weight loss, smoking cessation, disease management and more, but how do you know which ones will actually help you reach your goals?  Take a look at the following from MedScape which provides rankings of the top clinically rated apps for both health and wellness and condition management and try one today!

MedScape:  Healthcare Apps to Recommend to Patients

Have you found an app that has helped you improve your health?  Please comment — we’d love to know what has and hasn’t worked for you!

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O-Tip of the Week: When Setting Goals Think “SMART”

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 January our O-Tip series will concentrate on creating achievable resolutions and goals for the new year.

Make sure when setting your goals they are SMART goals.  Learn all about SMART goals in our goal planning guide, complete with a free printable to help you on your way!

Solutions for Living:  Goal Planning Guide

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O-Tip of the Week: When it Comes to Goals Don’t Just “Set It and Forget It”

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 January our O-Tip series will concentrate on creating achievable resolutions and goals for the new year.

We encourage you to set goals and resolutions not just at New Year’s, but throughout the year.

Follow our guide to help you create resolutions you can achieve and start you on your best year yet!

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Never Stop Learning

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

Over the holidays we were prepping for a family ski trip.  Our children are not yet skiers, and were asking us questions about our upcoming adventure.  My oldest daughter asked my husband “Daddy, have you ever fallen when you ski”?  His response was “Of course…that is why I am a good skier – if you are not falling you are not learning anything”.  So true.

His comment got me thinking about fear, risk and how people learn.  We need to fall to know how to get back up.  We need to fail to know how to succeed.  We need to make bad decisions to know how to do it right the next time.  We need to lose money to know how to keep it.

Humans seem especially good at falling, failing and learning as children, teens and young adults – provided the people in their environment provide them with these valuable opportunities.  As adults we tend to fall and fail in our early careers, social and personal lives while we learn how to behave as an adult and to manage our growing responsibilities like work, families, homes, etc.  Then we seem to reach an age where we become teachers, leading the younger generations to grow as we have.  We still need to gain knowledge during this time, but ultimately we might be revered as wise for all we already know.  But then do we stop learning?  Or stop having the will to learn?  Do we reach a point of “knowing it all”?

I will use another example to explain why I ask these important questions.  I have a close friend whose elderly grandparents are struggling to manage in their home.  They both have health issues and struggle to mobilize, access their upper level, get into the community, and cannot care for their home as they need to.  Family is providing a significant amount of support while living in a state of constant worry.  Really, the couple are one fall or new health problem away from losing their home and being institutionalized.  My friend mentioned to the daughter of this couple that an Occupational Therapist could provide valuable insight into how they might be able to manage more safely and independently so they can stay at home.  The daughter replied “Oh, they would never go for that”.  How sad.  This couple are unwilling to learn.

With a background in Gerontology (the study of aging), I understand fully the challenges most of us will face as we age.  And as an Occupational Therapist (the study of human function) I also understand the difficulties of living with a physical, cognitive, emotional or behavioral disability – age related or not.  But the big difference I see between my younger and older clients is their willingness to learn.  My younger clients seem to want to learn what I know, they appreciate how I can help, and engage in the process of working with me to make things better.  Yet my older clients are historically much less open to suggestions.  It is more difficult to get them to consider alternative ways to manage, devices that might help, or to accept assistance to do activities that are now unsafe for them to do on their own.  My funniest example of this was a 96 year old client that told me “scooters are for old people”.

I consider myself a life-long learner.  I recently finished my MBA, am constantly reading books about business, health and wellness, I take great interest in the stories and experiences of other people, take courses, attend conferences.  I just hope that when I reach that wonderful age of ultimate maturity I will continue to appreciate the value that other people can bring to my life and situation.  And hopefully I will accept suggestions, input and ideas proactively.  Because while falling is one way to learn – like when skiing – the older we are the harder it is to get back up again.

 

previously posted February, 2015

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HIV/AIDS and the Role of Occupational Therapy

Guest Blogger:  Samantha Langan, Occupational Therapist

Today people around the world will be wearing red ribbons to support World AIDS Day. This day of recognition started in 1988 to provide people with an opportunity to unite in the fight against Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), show support for those who are living with HIV and to also commemorate those who have died. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, 34 million people were living with HIV worldwide in 2011. In 2012, The Public Health Agency of Canada reported 2062 new cases of HIV, but it is expected that others are also living with the condition, not yet knowing they have been infected. There continues to be many myths and stereotypes around how HIV is transmitted and stigma remains for those living with HIV. Unfortunately, there isn’t yet a cure for this, but the disease is preventable.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus that attacks our body’s immune system, and over time, weakens our immune system to the point where it can no longer fight off bacteria, viruses, parasites, and even cancers. These diseases, known as opportunistic infections, can progress in the body of a person living with HIV and become what is known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. While those living with HIV do experience difficulties, HIV is now considered a long-term chronic illness that can be treated to help prolong and improve quality of life for those living with HIV/AIDS.

HIV is known to health professionals as an “episodic disability”, which means that for people living with the virus, symptoms can fluctuate unpredictably. Some common symptoms include muscle weakness, fatigue, changes in sensation in the hands and feet, decreased concentration and thinking, digestive problems, chronic pain as well as depression or anxiety. As symptoms can vary, people with HIV / AIDS can experience difficulty carrying out everyday activities like taking care of themselves, managing at home and attending work.

Occupational therapists support and empower people with all forms of disabilities and can assist people living with HIV to better manage in their desired activities despite unpredictable and on-going symptoms. In fact, occupational therapists work with those living with HIV by helping them to: manage their energy despite pain and fluctuating symptoms, find ways to adapt to tasks to make them more manageable, obtain devices that can improve safely and independence when completing daily tasks. Occupational therapists can also help people manage the emotional consequences associated with the condition, and can develop strategies to assist with cognitive changes should these exist. Another great way occupational therapists are helping those with HIV is through education and by providing strategies for them to be able to self-manage their disease. This is essential since HIV is a long-term illness. For more information about HIV/AIDS, check out the links below, or talk to an Occupational Therapist about how we help.

Resources
http://www.worldaidsday.org/about-world-aids-day.php
http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/aids-sida/publication/survreport/2012/dec/index-eng.php
http://healthycanadians.gc.ca/diseases-conditions-maladies-affections/disease-maladie/hiv-vih-eng.php

 

originally posted December 1, 2014