Tag Archive for: solutions for living


Foster Independence with Memory Mantras

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

Being an Occupational Therapist can also be a curse when it comes to parenting.  As an OT, the goals are always functional independence.  As a parent, I am no different.  I remember a video I watched in OT school.  This was of a boy (young adult) with cerebral palsy and he was putting his coat on.  The video was probably 20 minutes (or it felt that long).  As I watched this boy struggle with his coat for what seemed liked eternity, I wanted to jump through the TV to help him.  Clearly, with some help, this could be done faster and easier.  But in the end, it was not about that.  It was about independence.

As parents, it is often faster and easier to do things for our kids.  Or, we feel the need to continuously protect our kids from failure by ensuring that we are their second brain.  But is this the right choice when the goal is to create people that can manage on their own?

I have created two memory mantras that are used in our house to ensure my kids are seeing the big picture and are developing some executive functioning (note I also use these mantras with my clients who suffer from memory impairment):

  1. When leaving the house our mantra is:  WHERE AM I GOING AND WHAT DO I NEED?  When my children ask themselves this question, they need to stop and think “I am going to X and thus need Y (water, shoes, birthday present, tennis racquet, money)”.  This prevents them from showing up at X unprepared.
  2. When leaving a place in the community our mantra is:  WHAT DID I COME WITH AND WHAT DO I HAVE?  By asking themselves this question, they quickly realize that they came with X and thus need to bring X home (coat, shoes, water, bag, lunch).  This prevents them from leaving things behind.

The success is in hearing my children repeat this to themselves when on their way out the door.  Recently, at a sporting event, we heard a teenage boy blame his mother for forgetting his water.  She was profusely apologetic and rushed out to find him a drink.  My children (who were younger at the time) turned to me and said: “shouldn’t he remember his own water”?  My thoughts exactly.

Originally posted June 2013


Is Hitting Snooze Bad for your Health?

We have all been there.  The alarm goes off and you would give anything for just 10 more minutes… thank goodness for the snooze button.  Some people go as far as to set their alarms up to 30 minutes early just to have the satisfaction of pressing snooze multiple times.  However, as great as hitting snooze may feel in the moment, it may not actually be the best decision for your health.  Learn why in the following article care of the Cleveland Clinic. 

The Cleveland Clinic: Is Hitting Snooze (Once, Er, Maybe Three Times) Bad for Your Health?


Summer Vacation has Come to an End: Time to “Just Get ER Done”

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

Often I am asked by others how I balance the many aspects of my busy life.  My answer is that I just “get er done”.  In fact “get er done” is a mantra I use regularly to motivate me to knock things off my list.

For example, if I am driving and realize I will arrive at my destination 20 minutes early, often something (or several things) will pop into my head about how I should spend that extra time (stop into the bank, drop by the post office, grab that birthday present, stop at the store for some fresh veggies, etc.).  Then, my head starts negotiating with itself (“no, just keep driving and you can check email for 20 minutes in the parking lot”, or “I don’t feel like doing that right now”, or “I don’t need that present until next week anyway”).  Really, we can talk ourselves out of anything (mostly healthy eating, getting out of bed earlier, and exercise), but success comes from being able to hear through the noise to make the best decision.  Learn more about how to take advantage of that extra 20 minutes in our post Don’t Multi-Task, Multi-Purpose – It’s Better for You. 

In my case, when my head is conflicted by the devil and angel arguing on my shoulders, I apply the mantra:  “Julie, just get er done”.   Every time I say this, it springs me into action.

I remember watching a YouTube video by Mel Robbins that clearly explained that thoughts are just thoughts and to turn them into action, we need to attach a physical component.  We have five seconds to turn a thought into an action or it won’t happen.  So, when hearing the alarm, we have five seconds to throw off the covers and put our feet on the ground, or the “thought” of getting up will turn into the action of not.  Same with the thought of exercising:  if, within five seconds of thinking “I should go for a good walk” you have not gotten up and moved towards putting your runners on, chances are another thought will tell you to stay put.

So, turn those thoughts into action.  Use mantras and physical responses to your thoughts to just “get er done”.  


Functional, Yet Fashionable Clothing for All

Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc (Health / Gerontology)
Co-Written with Jacquelyn Bonneville, Occupational Therapist

As occupational therapists, we often see clients experience issues with dressing after an injury or as a result of a disability.  How do you dress when you have one arm?  Or, how can you don pants, socks and shoes when you have not feeling or movement in your lower body?  What about managing zippers and buttons with reduced fine motor control?  Spasms, reduced range of motion, the inability to stand for dressing, or body changes that make clothing options limited?  There are many reasons why dressing can become a problem.

As a society, we use fashion for several reasons – to manage the weather, for privacy from sensitive parts, and as an expression of ourselves.  Clothing and clothing choices are important.

Business-wear and athletic wear are two areas of fashion that are generally limiting for persons with dressing challenges.  For this blog, we wanted to introduce some simple, but still fashionable and functional, adaptations that can help manage the task of dressing if this has become difficult!

Lock Laces or Elastic Shoe Laces

Elastic and lock shoelaces are permanently tied, and allow for stretch of the shoe when putting it on or taking it off. This makes it a functional, inexpensive solution for anyone who doesn’t want to worry about their laces coming undone (especially athletes!), or for people who struggle with tying their shoelaces tight enough, or with the intricacies of actually tying the laces.  Note that often these are great in combination with a long-handled shoehorn.

Nike Flyease Sneakers

Nike has a line of slip-on ‘wrap-around-fasten’ shoes that are fashionable, including running shoes, kids shoes, and basketball style high-top sneakers (designed with basketball superstar LeBron James). Though designed for young adults with Cerebral Palsy initially, these shoes are suitable for anyone who wants some stylish sneakers, without the hassle of laces.

Under Armour Magzip

Zippers are often an integral part of our Canadian Fall and Winter attire to help secure our clothing to keep us warm. Zippers can actually be very challenging to co-ordinate for many reasons, and Under Armour tackled “fixing the zipper” in 2014 with their Magzip technology in a variety of unisex athletic-wear styles. The bottom part of the zipper is magnetic, meaning that it is far easier to ‘thread’ and pull up than a standard zipper, without sacrificing athletic hoodie style. See the press release for more information and a video explaining the technology.

IZ Adaptive Jeans

Jeans are a staple of many wardrobes, but they certainly shift and move when people are sitting or standing. For people who spend a lot of time sitting, including office workers and people who use wheelchairs, jeans can be extremely uncomfortable; jeans regularly have rivets on the back pocket which can cause discomfort while seated, they have the same rise around the waist so when you sit they are either too low or bunch up, and the front button can dig into your waist when you sit down.

IZ Adaptive has designed a line of jeans designed for wheelchair users that offer an easier ring to work the zipper, a clasp instead of a front button, and are overall designed with the different body position of a person while sitting instead of standing. Be sure to look online for other companies offering similar adaptive jean designs!

Part of the role of Occupational Therapy is to have insight and knowledge about products that will help an individual function independently, without sacrificing style, priorities, or efficiency. For more information about customized products that may work for your individual needs, speak with an Occupational Therapist!

As a last inspiring thought, check out this link to the story of a beautiful model with Down Syndrome, Madeline Stuart, who is changing perceptions of disability, while being stylish at the same time.

Previously posted January 2016


O-Tip of the Week: Simple Solution to Steady a Cutting Board

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 May, our O-Tip series will showcase some creative solutions using a commonly found household item – rubber bands.

Stop a cutting board from sliding by wrapping thick elastic bands around it.  The rubber bands create a non-slip board allowing you to work safely.


Don’t Multi-Task, Multi-Purpose – It’s Better for You

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

Like the word “busy”, the words “multi-task” had a few years of being “cool”.  People thought that “multi-tasking” was accomplishing more, being super-hero productive, and showing superior intellectual capacity.  But research into multi-tasking has proven the opposite and in fact, our brains are not able to multi-task at all.  In fact, trying to do two things at once is reducing our capability to manage either effectively. 

In the article “12 Reasons to Stop Multi-Tasking Now” it is highlighted that society has moved towards the implication that if you are not doing two things at once, you are wasting time.  It mentions the reasons to stop multi-tasking, including some important points like: “Moving back and forth between several tasks actually wastes productivity…because your attention is expended on the act of switching gears—plus, you never get fully “in the zone” for either activity”.  This causes activities to take “more time” so instead of both taking say 10 minutes each, together they take you 25.  Further, we miss things by trying to do too much.  Our skills become careless, or it reduces our ability to enjoy moments if we are texting and walking or emailing while also trying to watch the ballet recital.  Attending to two things at once actually drains our “working memory” which kills our creativity.  There is just not an upside.

My solution is something I call “multi-purpose”.  It is the way I try to spend my time when it makes sense to fit in multiple things.  But I apply this to chores and tasks at home, more than work.  For example, if I am out to get X, I will also survey my home and “to do list” to see if I can also do Y in the same errand.  Our orthodontist is beside the bike shop and seamstress, so every trip to get braces tightened also means pants with holes or bikes with slow leaks are also addressed.  The pet store is beside the Goodwill, so when the cats need food the donation bag in the garage is dropped off.  The grocery store is beside my favorite gas station, so stopping for one usually means stopping for the other.  With work, I, of course, try to book client visits that are nearby, and if I have time in between I want to know that I can stop at a coffee shop with my laptop for some charting (means I need to plan for this and bring my laptop with me).  I also bring a lunch, as stopping to eat (in my opinion) doesn’t benefit my time, wallet or waistband. I may or may not return calls in the car (hands-free of course) – it depends on whether my brain (or heart) just needs to “reflect and drive” or the urgency of the call.  Bottom line is that I don’t tend to go places without thinking “what else can I accomplish during this outing and how can my time be best spent?”  The things that fill my day tend to serve many purposes, but they are still done separately.  That is the art of multi-purpose without the troubles and inefficiencies of the misleading concept of “multi-tasking”.


Reap What you Sow: Healthy Benefits of Gardening

If you haven’t planted your garden already, now is the time!  In recent years there has been a rise in the number of people growing vegetables and fruits in their backyards, patios and even on rooftops.  Why?  From health benefits to financial savings, there are many benefits of growing your own food and working in the garden.

Check out the following article from Reader’s Digest to learn about the ways gardening can benefit your health and get growing today!

Reader’s Digest:  10 Surprising Ways Gardening Is One of the Healthiest Things You Can Do



Washroom Safety and Independence: OT Can Help!

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

For some people, the simple task of going to the bathroom can be a challenge.  This may be due to a recent surgery, mobility impairment or another medical issue that impacts the bladder or bowels.

In an episode from our OT-V series, we talk about some of the tools and methods Occupational Therapists will recommend when providing solutions for safe and effective washroom usage.

Watch the video below to learn more about how an Occupational Therapist can help an individual facing challenges in the washroom to ensure their safety, comfort and optimal independence.  


If you enjoyed this episode of OT-V please visit our YouTube Channel to see more informative videos about Occupational Therapy and the Solutions for Living OTs provide!


Making Groceries Easier – New Services Help People with All Abilities

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

The major grocery stores in Ontario have been increasingly focusing their efforts on offering free or low-cost online shopping and pick up or delivery for customers.  Thought to be a result of Millennial overscheduling and impatience, this trend can provide life-changing services for persons with disabilities.  Whether a disability is physical, cognitive, mental or behavioural, public places can be extremely stressful and difficult for some people to navigate.  With online ordering and pick up, shoppers simply need to select items and pay online, arrange a pick-up time, park in a designated spot, call to state their arrival and wait until the purchases are loaded into their vehicle.

This can help to not only improve the ease of shopping but also varies the level of participation which can benefit some people.  For example, instead of sending a caregiver to the store with a list, if someone can use a computer, they can order the items they want independently and just leave the caregiver to do the pick-up.  No more problems with getting that wrong type of pasta sauce!

This is also actually more cost-effective, even considering the fees.  For example, if a caregiver is $25 per hour, then having them do shopping may cost $25-$50 in their hourly fee alone.  With the pick-up option, the fees may be minimal (or “free” depending on the size of the order) and the caregiver can just spend 10-15 minutes doing the pick-up (or unpacking items if they are delivered) versus taking an hour or more to shop.

Here is some information on the offerings by store that are now available in most major stores across Ontario and if not, will be soon:


Additional helpful services in major stores include the self-scan option.  For example, some Walmart locations offer self-scan in which you grab a scanner at the entrance and as you’re shopping you scan the items before putting them in your cart (and it’s pretty simple to remove items yourself if you change your mind).  When you are finished shopping head to the reserved self-scan checkout, scan the barcode on your scanner, and your whole order pops up – you pay and leave without having to wait in line or converse with a sales associate or cashier.  This option can be very helpful for people who may have social anxiety, limited tolerances for standing, walking, bending or reaching, have little time to do other responsibilities, or who are otherwise unable to tolerate the checkout part of shopping.

Overall, the possibilities and benefits are positive, and these services are proving very useful for people of all abilities.


The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up

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

I was raised in a very tidy family.  My grandfather had polio and thus my father was raised in a home where clutter was not an option, because if my grandfather tripped on something “lying around” he could be seriously hurt.  My grandmother took it to some extremes (like waxing her garage floor), but the net result was a tidy dad that instilled the benefits of being organized on me.

I am very environmentally driven.  I have a hard time being productive or functional if my space is uncomfortable.  I keep my office, home and car reasonably organized.  I know where the bills are that I need to pay, the ones that I have already paid, where my spare car keys are, and what I have in the fridge and freezer that could pass as dinner.  I can usually answer the “mom, where is the ???” question and keep commonly used items in consistent places.  I label things to make search and locate easier, and so that I can blame the kid responsible to avoid the “wasn’t me” response (when they were little they had one color each for bowls, plates and cups and they still have different colored towels). Having four teens and four pets, sure our house is in constant need of tidying, and getting my kids on the tidy train hasn’t always been easy.  I try to give them some freedom over their bedroom, but once a week it needs to be “cleanable” and we have a special needs dog with an affinity for smelly socks (not clean ones), so at the least, they need to keep their dirty clothes safely stored in their “dog-can’t-reach” laundry bin.

I believe though that being organized is more than a skill, it is also a lifestyle.  Like being active, or being a non-smoker, deciding to be organized is a conscious choice, then it requires commitment to get and stay there.

But like all “lifestyle choices”, this too can get derailed.  As an occupational therapist “organization” often is incorporated into our treatment of clients, and this takes many forms.  Sometimes it is organizing items into reachable places from a mobility device, or to conserve energy and reduce the pain caused from lifting the heavy pots from the bottom cupboard. Sometimes it is mail, email, and paperwork to ensure urgent items get addressed and bills continue to get paid.  Maybe it is just putting like items together to make it easier and more efficient to find things (especially with cognitive impairment or depression that can make initiation, motivation, and memory impaired).  If we are gearing up for a home renovation to address accessibility needs, sometimes purging, sorting and storing or discarding items is necessary to make room for the upcoming changes.

Marie Kondo ( has become a Netflix, YouTube and internet sensation with her “Life Changing Art of Tidying Up” book and series.  She coaches only keeping items that “bring joy” and offers some suggestions on how to sort, fold and emotionally process keeping things we love, and letting go of the things we don’t. While I am not sure filing a utility bill, organizing my doggie poop bags, or emptying the overflowing bathroom garbage are things and items that “bring me joy”, I love her approach to folding and agree that your home should be filled with items that reduce, not increase, your level of stress. In the end, being organized is efficient because when you can find things you are not spending that emotional, cognitive and physical energy “looking around aimlessly” all the while getting frustrated, or worse, tired and angry.  The time you save by being able to navigate and find the things in your own home quickly can be spent on other meaningful, purposeful and joyful activities.  And that is where I agree with Marie that organizing can help us to “choose joy”.