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Archive for category: Brain Health

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So I Guess Your Kid Doesn’t Wear a Seat Belt Either?

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

I get very confused when I see children riding bikes without helmets.  Over the last many years the safety benefits of a helmet for biking, skiing, skateboarding, ice skating (and many other sports) has been well studied.  Research shows that helmets can be extremely effective in preventing head injuries and ¾ of all cycling fatalities are the result of head trauma.  You don’t even have to hit a car or tree to sustain a head injury – the ground or even your handlebars are often enough.

The laws in Ontario are clear:  since October 1, 1995 anyone under the age of 18 is required to ride a helmet on a road or sidewalk (http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/safety/helmet/helmet_law.htm).  Based on an increasing number of adult cycling deaths by head injury, it is likely that this law will soon be extended to adults as it is in other provinces.

So, considering the laws and the well-publicized risks, why are children (including young children) still seen riding bikes without helmets?

As adults, I recognize that we were not raised to wear helmets.  Adopting this practice has been difficult as we find it unnatural, maybe uncomfortable, and probably uncool.  However, most of us likely wear seat belts when in a vehicle.  Why?  BECAUSE WE WERE RAISED THAT WAY.  Seat belt laws in Ontario were passed in 1976 and so many of us were raised in the era of this as mandatory.  Many of us probably don’t even have to think about our seat belt anymore as it is part of our regular “get-in-the-car” routine and we feel naked and exposed without it.  We need to apply the same concept of “normal” to our children regarding helmets. 

There are two main reasons why children need to wear helmets. 

1. They are safe and have been shown to save lives and reduce disability.

2.  IT IS THE LAW.

As a parent, by not requiring that your child wear a helmet on their bike you are not only putting them at risk, but are also teaching them that laws don’t matter.  And I am not talking about the diligent parents whose children leave the house with a helmet on, to later have this on their handlebars or undone on their head.   I am mostly talking about the young kids in my neighbourhood who are out on their bikes without helmets, often under the supervision of their parents, and are thus not being taught that helmets are law, mandatory, and safe.

I am going to hazard a guess that no parent would put their child in a car without a seat belt.  Heck, child seats are also law and until a certain age, these are five-point and offer more protection than the adult restraint.  So, for the same reasons you put your child in a seat belt (protection and law) you need to ensure they are wearing a helmet for biking (skating, skiing, skateboarding).  And lead by example – get a helmet for yourself and model the appropriate behavior.  And be firm: no helmet should equal no bike.  No discussion.

 

Previously posted June 2016

 

Summer Programming Note:

Summer vacation is here and we will be taking a break from our regular schedule.  We will be posting some of our popular seasonal blogs just once a week throughout the summer but will resume our regular three weekly posts in September, filled with new and exciting content including our popular O-Tip of Week series.

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Brain Injury Recovery O-Tip of the Week: Set Reminders

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. 

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month.  Occupational Therapists are a vital part of a team of professionals that assist with the rehabilitation from brain injury.  Therefore, for the month of June, our series will be providing solutions to assist with some of the common cognitive deficits that can result from brain injury. 

Take advantage of the helpful technology that surrounds us!  Setting a timer on your phone, smart home device, watch, stove or kitchen timer can help you to remember to pause and check in with yourself, preventing you from overexerting yourself.  Smart home devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo are great as you can ask them to remind you of certain things like when to take a break, upcoming appointments, when to take medications, and more.  

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Cognitive Strategies Following ABI

People with an Acquired Brain Injury, or ABI, often have issues with memory or other higher-level brain activity after their injury, and suddenly, completing daily life tasks becomes very difficult. They may struggle with things like remembering names and faces, the things they need to do in a day, or they may even forget or lack insight that they even have an ABI.

Occupational Therapists have the skills to get many people with brain injuries back to everyday life!

Learn about some of the strategies Occupational Therapists use to help those who have suffered an ABI in the following episode from our OT-V series, Acquired Brain Injury – Cognitive Strategies.

 

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Brain Injury Recovery O-Tip of the Week: There’s an App for That!

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. 

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month.  Occupational Therapists are a vital part of a team of professionals that assist with the rehabilitation from brain injury.  Therefore, for the month of June, our series will be providing solutions to assist with some of the common cognitive deficits that can result from brain injury.

Remember the old Apple commercials… “There’s an app for that!”  Well, isn’t that the truth.  You can find apps for just about anything, and in fact, there are some great apps that can assist with memory and cognition for those who are recovering from a brain injury.  Some of these apps are summarized below:

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Brain Injury Recovery O-Tip of the Week: This Handy Device Can Help You Find Your Keys

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. 

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month.  Occupational Therapists are a vital part of a team of professionals that assist with the rehabilitation from brain injury.  Therefore, for the month of June, our series will be providing solutions to assist with some of the common cognitive deficits that can result from brain injury. 

This tip definitely does not only apply to those recovering from brain injury… If you’re someone who is always misplacing your keys and/or wallet (or other items) this helpful piece of technology is for you!  Tile is a small Bluetooth tracking device you can attach to a keychain, slip into your wallet or attach to anything you frequently have to search for.  This device syncs with an app on your smartphone that will allow you to easily locate your items when in need – saving you a lot of time, effort and frustration!

Learn more here: https://www.thetileapp.com/en-us/how-it-works

 

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Treating Executive Dysfunction: There is No “One Size Fits All”

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

As a caring professional, I refuse to believe that my clients are not motivated.  All of my clients have goals or I would not be treating them.  However, their ability to achieve their goals independently remains the reason that they require active therapy.  Previously, I wrote about executive functioning (Brain Injury and Executive Functions – When the CEO is on Hiatus), the capacities we require to achieve a goal, and used the example of moving to highlight how people with executive dysfunction may feel on a regular basis when completing relatively simple tasks.

Treatment for executive dysfunction is as broad as it is specific.  It is broad because everyone experiences brain injury differently and comes into that type of trauma with varying levels of ability to start with.  However, treating problems with executive function is really as simple as taking a goal and breaking this down into component parts, manageable chunks, and smaller goals within the whole.

So, returning to the moving example, assisting someone with executive dysfunction with a pending move will involve making checklists, with time frames, and checking on progress frequently.  Personally, I like to take a project approach:  calling the goal “Operation Move” and mapping out – start to finish – the metrics for success.  Perhaps in month one an “apartment hunting worksheet” is created to help a client summarize all the places they are looking at, the pros/cons, address, and list of questions that need to be answered (price, utilities included, length of the lease, etc.).  Often I encourage my clients to use a smartphone to take photos of the options then we cross-reference these and catalog them to keep things organized.  From there, the process continues with checklists for calls to make, addresses to change, ways to organize packing and management of belongings.  Ensuring the client is responsible for follow-up via “homework” between sessions and holding them accountable for completion of this aids to developing independence.  Really, the therapeutic goal is more than just ensuring the client is able to move successfully.  Rather, it is demonstrating a model and method that can be used for any future transitions, goals or tasks.  This ensures success that is transferable to other events at later dates. 

 

Previously posted June 2013

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Brain Injury Recovery O-Tip of the Week: Create a Medical Appointment Notebook

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. 

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month.  Occupational Therapists are a vital part of a team of professionals that assist with the rehabilitation from brain injury.  Therefore, for the month of June, our series will be providing solutions to assist with some of the common cognitive deficits that can result from brain injury. 

Recovering from a brain injury, or injury/illness of any kind, often means frequent meetings and appointments with numerous healthcare professionals.  From Occupational Therapists to Physiotherapists, Family Doctors to  Neurologists, it can be difficult for individuals to keep straight who said what, let alone be able to share this information with family and/or caregivers who need to know.  We suggest using a single notebook that has dividers so a section for each healthcare professional can be created.  This book should be taken to each appointment and the important information can be recorded.  This will help keep the patient and their loved ones organized and informed.

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The Importance of Hope

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

June is Brain Injury Awareness Month.  For many who suffer a brain injury the road to recovery is long and filled with many twists and turns along the way.  I wanted to post this popular blog post as a reminder to not give up hope, no matter how difficult the journey may be.

A friend asked me to visit a colleague of his who was in the hospital following a spinal infection.  The spinal infection and resulting surgery caused paralysis and the gentleman was told he will not walk again.  During our visit we spoke of the non-profit organization “Spinal Cord Injury Ontario” and the client’s wife told me the story of their first meeting with a Peer Support volunteer.  She recalled that the volunteer (a paraplegic) entered their room and introduced himself.  The wife politely thanked him for coming but told him they would not need his services as they strongly believe that her husband will walk again.   The volunteer’s answer was brilliant – he told them that even though it has been years since his own accident, he too has not given up hope that one day there will be a cure for paralysis.  He explained that he keeps himself in great shape as to always be prepared for that day.  He told my friend’s colleague to never give up hope.

This conversation reminded me that hope is essential.  As a health professional, I realized early that one of the key roles I play in the lives of my clients is to foster hope.  Hope for a better future, for a solution to their current problems, and for a better way to manage.  Even just discussing problems and brainstorming solutions elicits hope.  Health professionals should never undervalue the importance of fostering hope – even if that is in the face of one huge challenge after another.  Where hope becomes dangerous is when people are so busy waiting for “the cure” that they forget to manage in the meantime.  Hope, like goals, is essential to survival, but so is survival in between.  To forgo opportunities, solutions and help in the hopes of a future “fix” will only cause secondary problems that may be larger than the initial problem in the first place.

This philosophy is supported by most Chronic Pain Programs – they will not admit people to participate if that person is banking on a surgery, medication, or other therapy to “fix” them.  Some problems are chronic, and learning to manage with the trials of life despite the problem is the only therapy.  This should not squish hope – but rather should allow hope to live and breathe among optimal function.  

I always try to remain hopeful.  Hopeful for a better world for my children, for resolution of pain and suffering for my clients, for the health of others, and for my industry to remain a place where injured people can be adequately supported during their recovery.  But I recognize that it is not always easy to feel hopeful.  So, if you ever find yourself running on empty in the hope tank, try calling a supportive friend or family member, looking online (or on this blog) for inspiration, watching a funny or uplifting movie, getting some exercise, changing your scenery, or seeking support from a health professional.  We are here for hope and help. 

 

Previously posted July 2013

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Do You Listen to Music While You Work?

Music at work… a distraction or a helpful part of your working environment?  The following article care of Inc Magazine discusses the science behind how music affects the brain and provides insight into the best times to play some tunes, and the circumstances where a quiet environment is more beneficial.

Inc Magazine:  What Listening to Music at Work Does to Your Brain (It’s Pretty Amazing)

We want to hear from you… do you listen to music while you work?  And… do you find it helpful or distracting? 

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A Place Called Vertigo

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

I am not sure what the word “vertigo” refers to in U2’s hit song, but as someone living with vertigo, I can tell you it is not a place you want to be.  Vertigo is highly unpleasant and can be caused by multiple factors including visual or auditory problems, or more commonly, head injury.  I best describe my vertigo as my eyes and ears sending different messages to my brain regarding the position of my body in space.  So, while my eyes tell me I am sitting still in a chair, my ears tell me I am on a boat in the middle of a hurricane.  The result of these mixed messages is spinning, nausea, dizziness, problems walking, and ultimately dysfunction.

For me, my benign positional vertigo (BPV) lives in my right ear.  As a result, I cannot lie on my right side, laterally flex my head to the right, lie flat with my neck extended, or look down into extreme flexion.    While I can tolerate these movements momentarily, I cannot hold these positions for more than a few seconds otherwise I am sent into a spin that can last for days.  I am fortunate to know my triggers and do my best to avoid them (no yoga for me).  I have also learned, after living with this problem for two decades, how to catch my symptoms early to prevent a slight episode of dizziness from turning into days of bed rest.

When my clients experience vertigo and describe this to me, I can fully appreciate where they are coming from.  The story is a book I too could write.   But, like other “hidden” ailments, I get concerned when the medical community does not take this complaint seriously.  This is especially true in my industry where insurers and their assessors often want “proof” of a health problem to support someone’s recovery. While I recognize that people can be dishonest, my experience is that people don’t make this stuff up.  Health professionals need to give people the benefit of the doubt, including insurance situations. To understand, or better yet, support someone with any “invisible” problem like vertigo, health professionals need to be compassionate and should care enough to listen, to research and learn, and ultimately believe.  Empathy, TRUST, and understanding will go a long way to support those that need it. I can only imagine how frustrating, devastating and angering it would be for someone to assume or opine that my “place called vertigo” is not a place at all: because, believe me, I live here.

 

previously posted August 2013