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Archive for category: Seniors Health

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Fall Prevention O-Tip of the Week: Keep Frequently Used Items Within Reach

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 provide helpful ways to prevent falls at home and in the community.

Keep frequently used items in easy to reach locations to reduce the need for using a chair or ladder to reach items in high cupboards or the top shelf of the closet.  If these items are required, ask a family member or neighbor to help you reach them instead of attempting to do so yourself.

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Fall Prevention O-Tip of the Week: Improve Grip and Visibility on Exterior Surfaces

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 provide helpful ways to prevent falls at home and in the community.

Exterior steps can become extremely slippery in wet, snowy or icy weather.  Painting over your outside stairs with a mix of paint and sand will help to increase grip and improve visibility.  Be sure to always keep your steps clear and use salt in the winter months to ensure steps aren’t a fall hazard.

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Fall Prevention O-Tip of the Week: Let’s Get Physical

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 provide helpful ways to prevent falls at home and in the community.

Did you know that taking part in regular physical activity including cardiovascular, strength-building and balance activities can help to prevent falls as you age?  Speak with your physician or Occupation Therapist about which activities are safe for you and maintain a regular routine to help reduce your risk.

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Senior Safety and the Vital Role of Occupational Therapy

Canada’s population is aging. In 2015, there were almost 6 million people over the age of 65 – that is nearly 1 in 6 Canadians. As we grow older, we face an increasing risk of falls, accidents, disabilities, and illnesses.  As a senior how can you stay safe and healthy?

Why is Older Adult Safety Important?

Older adult health and safety is important for maintaining our ability to age in place of choice.  Statistics Canada has highlighted the following safety risks for older Canadians:

  • 89% of Canadian seniors had at least one chronic health condition. Arthritis and rheumatism were the most common.
  • 25% of Canadian seniors reported having 2 or more chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, arthritis, back problems and diabetes.
  • 63.7% of Canadian seniors reported to have been injured in a fall.
  • There are 3.25 million people aged 65 and over in Canada who have a driver’s license.
  • 92.1% of seniors live in private households.

These statistics demonstrate the increased risk to seniors for health and other safety concerns.

Occupational Therapists Can Help!

Occupational Therapists are trained professionals who address all aspects of getting people back to doing things they want to do, need to do, or have to do, but may be experiencing challenges when doing so.  Occupational Therapists can support older adult’s health and well being through providing supports for seniors to maintain active social connects, manage changes in health conditions, and to continue engaging in activities that provide them with meaning and joy.

These are the following areas that an OT can help keep seniors safe and healthy!

Fall Prevention 

Falls are the leading cause of injury among older Canadians with 20-30% of seniors experiencing one or more falls each year.

Occupational Therapy can help seniors prevent falls by assessing their functional status and reviewing the hazards in their environment that may put them at risk for falling. Strategies to prevent falls can be discussed, such as:

  • General Education on how to do activities differently to stay safe.
  • Equipment and devices to assist.
  • Home modifications such as lighting, flooring, organization, and layout.
Aging in Place

In 2011, 92 % of all seniors ages 65 + lived in private homes, and over 10 million seniors are living with a chronic condition.  Older adults also have disproportionately higher rates of unmet care at home. Thus, ensuring these individuals function safely and independently at home is a high priority.

Occupational Therapy can help by assessing the home and the homeowner to ensure a proper fit between the person and environment to promote overall health and safety.  Additionally, an OT can prescribe the proper assistive devices, education and help people plan ahead so they can “ age in place” without being at risk.

Keeping Senior’s Active

Remaining physically active as you age can help reduce, prevent or delay diseases and can help to manage stress, improve mood and boost cognition.  Statistics show that 57% of Canadian seniors consider themselves physically inactive.

Occupational Therapy can help seniors remain physically active by:

  • Creating custom activity plans based on health and abilities.
  • Helping seniors create a daily schedule that includes physical activation.
  • Helping seniors to find appropriate facilities and groups to join or other productive and meaningful activities.
Sleep

Sleep is important for recovering from illness and injury, staying healthy, and ensuring people have sufficient energy during the day to accomplish life roles. Difficulty sleeping is a common and detrimental issue for people in various life stages.

Occupational Therapy can help seniors reduce sleep problems by:

  • Reviewing sleeping positions and patterns to suggest improvements for both comfort and quality of sleep.
  • Assessing the bed, mattress, and pillows to ensure the body is sleeping in the optimal position for comfort.
  • Prescribing assistive devices to improve sleep positioning, bed transfers, and bed mobility.
  • Helping people to implement a new sleep routine that will improve your sleep quality and duration.
Cognitive Impairments

According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada as of 2016, there are an estimated 564,000 Canadians living with dementia – plus about 25,000 new cases diagnosed every year.

Occupational Therapy can help people with dementia or who have altered/declining cognition by:

  • Educating people and loved ones on how to maximize function while still promoting independence and safety in the completion of activities of daily living.
  • Assessing cognition, abilities, and environment to make suggestions on ways to compensate for declining cognitive skills through direct therapy or environmental modification.
  • Developing routines and schedules that promote independence and eases the role and need for a caregiver.
  • Prescribing safety equipment and devices to optimize function.
Transition Stages
  • Occupational Therapy can play a crucial role in helping seniors through live transitions this by:
  • Identifying, planning and helping people engage in finding new meaningful occupations outside of work.
  • Providing education on role changes, spending time with family and friends, healthy lifestyles and choices.
  • Helping discover new ways to occupy their time, participate in leisure activities and find new interests.
  • Improving quality of life through promotion of independence and pain management strategies.

 

For more information on how Occupational Therapists help improve the lives of older adults check out our infographic:  Occupational Therapy Works for Seniors.

 

Resources

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-402-x/2012000/chap/pop/pop-eng.htm?fpv=3867

https://www.tc.gc.ca/media/documents/roadsafety/cmvtcs2013_eng.pdf

Turcotte, M (2014). Canadians with unmet home care needs.

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-006-x/2014001/article/14042-eng.pdf

http://www.caot.ca/default.asp?pageid=1454

http://www.caot.ca/default.asp?ChangeID=1&pageID=621

http://www.caot.ca/default.asp?pageid=1501

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Fall Prevention O-Tip of the Week: Invest in Indoor Shoes

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 provide helpful ways to prevent falls at home and in the community.

Wearing shoes inside the home helps to ensure you always have a proper non-slip grip on all surfaces. If this isn’t comfortable for you, invest in a pair of indoor slippers or snug-fitting socks with grips on the bottom.

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Stay Active for Good Health No Matter Your Age or Ability

Being physically active is one of the most important things you can do for your mental, physical and cognitive health.  It is recommended that adults have 150 minutes per week of heart-pumping activity and the good news is that no matter your age or ability there are activities anyone can engage in.  Take a look at the following care of Participaction that provides some great resources on how anyone can be active.

Participaction:  Activity is for Everyone– How to Get Active at any Age or Ability

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The Benefits of Hydrotherapy

Guest Blogger: Carolyn Rocca, Occupational Therapist

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

Hydrotherapy 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, hydrotherapy 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 hydrotherapy 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, hydrotherapy 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 hydrotherapy 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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Pedestrian Safety for Older Adults

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

The other day I was driving through a busy parking lot.  I noticed an elderly man who parked his car, got out, and proceeded to walk through the parking lot without ever surveying his surroundings.  He did not see my vehicle approaching him, and did not appear to notice the other cars that had to stop to let him pass.  The other drivers looked both annoyed and perplexed that he could be so clueless.

According to the CDC Increasing frailty may leave the elderly more vulnerable to being hit by traffic. Age-linked declines in mental function, vision and physical disabilities might place older adult pedestrians at greater risk for being struck by a vehicle.

With this man, what I noticed was quite telling.  He was looking at his feet.  Many seniors do this when walking.  Why?  Because they are afraid to fall.  With a decline in physical ability comes problems negotiating uneven terrain.  Parking lots and sidewalks are full of holes, stones, and cracks that could be problematic for someone with declining mobility.  So, they stare at the ground to avoid falling, the entire time being unable to also look around at other risks in the environment.  And when you combine this with reduced peripheral vision, they may not notice vehicles approaching. 

Society expects seniors to “know better” in that they have been trained, over a lifetime, about the perils of traffic.  With children, we don’t expect them to know better because they are carefree and often move before thinking.  As driver’s, we watch for children and take extra care when we see them around roads or in parking lots.  We also tend to take the same precautions when we notice someone who is more visibly disabled using a wheelchair, or white cane.  But disabilities are not always visible and we have to be careful to not make assumptions – especially with seniors who may have an unnoticeable visual, cognitive, physical or auditory problem.  

My message here is that drivers should be cautious with all pedestrians, but need to be especially mindful of seniors – much like they are with children or other people with visible disabilities.  Seniors deserve our patience and the extra time it might take to help them safely go about their day and negotiate the sometimes challenging outdoor environment.

Previously posted July 2013

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Screen Time: How Much is Too Much and How to Change It

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

I was enjoying a nice dinner with a friend (also an occupational therapist) and we started a great conversation about phone use with our children.  She asked me “how much screen time is too much”?  Of course, there isn’t really an academic answer, but we talked from a professional perspective about the behavior of phones, the social risks and benefits, and from the parent side of our fears and worries about how these have become a staple in the lives of our kids. Then, she changed my world by introducing me to the concept of screen time (more on that below).

Parents have very polarized views on phones, so I get that how I manage this in my household may not fit with the values of others.  To recap, I have four teen daughters ages 14-18.  Our phone philosophy is that we provide our girls a phone for their 14th Birthday (Grade 9) and pay for this until their 18th Birthday.  After that, they are on their own to fund this expense (and can get as many gigs as they want).  On our plan, they have 2 gigs each and do not get an extension if they run out.  Their access to Wi-Fi at home is scheduled and is not limitless.  They are not allowed to have their devices in their bedrooms (concessions are made sometimes but they already have “old school alarm clocks” to negate the “I need it to wake up” argument) and they know that if this is beside their bed it needs to be in airplane mode to not disrupt their sleep.

Too strict?  Perhaps, but I see phones like every other “potentially harmful” thing I keep my kids from.  Sedentary time, junk food and pop consumption (tip – just don’t buy it!), and of course we do not serve them alcohol or buy them cigarettes.  I ensure they are all engaged in something active and encourage them to make decent food choices, even if they don’t.  Those things are easy for me to “parent about” because it is well established that “sitting disease” is a thing, “diabetes and obesity” are a problem, and alcohol and drugs are horrible for developing brains (not to mention illegal for my kids based on age).  But screen time?  How much is “too much”?  We don’t really know that yet.  We know that phones are highly addictive – more addictive than cocaine – and cause a whole host of behaviors that, like addictions, are hard to break.  They also promote highly sedentary behavior (they are typically used while sitting). So, here is how I handled this (and note this is for iPhones with a family plan, I don’t know how this works with any other devices):

  • Go to: “settings, screen time”.  To get to know how this works, the top shows your usage.  Push on that and you have the option to look at Today or the Last 7 Days.  Below that is a list of all the things you do on your phone and for how long.
  • Go back to “screen time” and you will see somethings below your usage:

o   Downtime (schedule time away from the screen)

o   App Limits (set time for apps)

o   Always Allowed (things you want to always have access to)

o   Content and Privacy (blocking inappropriate content

  • Then below that, you will see “Family” and a list of those “underage” as per your family plan.

Now for the cool parent stuff.  You can click on any one of your children’s devices and you can see for each of them what you can also see for yourself.  Patterns, usage behavior, time on certain things, and you can also put limits to the above (Downtime, Apps, Always Allowed and Content).  It asks you for a password so as a parent you can pick something that the kids won’t know.  They can’t change their limits on their own.

I don’t recommend arbitrarily just going in and setting limits as I think the best part of the “screen time” feature is the conversation that can happen around figuring out what is “reasonable”.  With my kids, I chatted with each of them about their usage pattern (something they never looked at).  We talked about the time on their Apps, and for some, questions like: “4 hours on Rodeo Stampede”?  This brought their awareness to their habits and allowed me to understand their insight into whether this was “good, bad or ugly”.  And honestly, it was a mix of all three.  After we understood their patterns, we decided on our “screen time limit” (for us three hours / day) and went through to give permission for all the “good” to continue, the “bad” to be limited, and the “ugly” to stop.  And the best thing is that these limits apply regardless of data or Wi-Fi – so even if they have unlimited Wi-Fi in public places, they can’t use their devices more than programmed.

Since implementing this several weeks ago, their screen time has dropped significantly, and they don’t even use their devices to their limits (which were set lower than their averages to start with).  In fact, three hours might be more than they need.

All of this brings me back to a popular concept in my profession of occupational therapy:  behavior change starts with being able to track and understand it in the first place.  Once you know where behavior is at, you can make a conscious and concerted effort to modify it to improve your own health.  Even if you drop your usage by 30 minutes a day and maintain that for several weeks, you just returned yourself 3.5 hours per week to do other (healthier?) things.

What’s next Apple?  An iFridge?

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What is Growth Mindset?

When it comes to “mindset” Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology, states that people have either a fixed or a growth mindset and states that:

  • With a fixed mindset, one believes their qualities and abilities are fixed and therefore cannot change even with practice.
  • With a growth mindset, one believes their qualities and abilities will continue to change with time, effort and experience.

The term “Growth Mindset” is used frequently when talking about children and youth pertaining to education, however, it is not just for kids.  As clinicians who work with people of all ages who have sustained life-altering injuries, we often come across fixed mindsets and work to help clients reframe their thoughts and form goals based on a growth mindset.   Learn more about growth mindset in this TedTalk featuring Carol Dweck.