Friday, September 30, 2016

Seating Problems

I feel like Goldilocks - I want to complain about seating.

I have a very sore right hip and leg right now. I can't get comfortable.  The couch is too soft, the reclining chair is too hard the other chair is too low.  I am putting a pillow under my behind on the upright recliner and I have a small rolled up toss blanket behind my back to make things tolerable.

A few years ago. when I had so many issues with my left side. I was having a different set of seating issues. How do I sit down? How do I get up? How do I keep the chair from tipping over?  The chairs needed to be very stable because I was not stable and tending to loose my balance. They needed strong arms for me to push off on. If I sat on the couch I needed to be in the right side corner so that I could  have that arm to help me up because my left arm was not strong enough to get me anywhere.  I wanted the chair  or couch to be on the left side of the TV or where ever the action was because I was seeing better out of my right eye and frankly was recognizing movement better with my right eye due to some lingering left side neglect. I found that I would go to group events and I constantly got given a seat all the way to the right of a long table. I found not only did I not see the people on my left side properly.. I found I had trouble hearing properly from that left ear too. In particular I had trouble discerning whose voice was whose. I tried to turn my head to correct and that just made me dizzy and nauseated.

I find the same thing happens with my stroke friends and other people I know. Seating is undervalued.  Individuals have their own interests and needs and it takes a little effort to accommodate them but the seating can make all the difference to a persons enjoyment and comfort and I would even say their quality of life. 

People like to be near their friends, People like to sit away from people they don't care for. Some individuals like to sit close so they can get a view or where the best lighting it and others like to sit close enough to hear the best they can.  Music systems with their amplification might seem great for people with hearing loss but their hearing aids might react badly to the louder sound range and those individuals not only want to be far away from the amps, they want to be out of the room!

What chair feels good? Is this wheel chair easy to move? Can we get a comfortable cushion for the wheel chair seat? (they are unbelievably expensive) 

How about a bed that is at the right height to get in and out of with comfort and maybe a grab bar to help the process?  Clothes they will not get caught up when you are trying to slide in and out might be helpful.

My former physiotherapist spent a few of our appointments teaching me how to drive a scooter. It was kind of embarrassing and fun all at the same time. She ran ahead of me in the hospital hallway yelling.. "Beginner driver! Get out of the way!" I was not talented at going Rabbit speed or Turtle speed which were the two options on the scooters. She said I better work on recovering fast and walking again because I was not a safe driver. Considering my vision issues at the time it was brave of her to take me out in the public!
The fact is the scooters and powered wheel chairs have a lot of different options, and for some people they can provide so much independence and freedom. Potential users do need an opportunity to learn how to use them properly and safely and the vehicles do need to be physically a good "fit".

We also can try and work on exercises to help us in recovery and in maintain  our strength so we can get out of those chairs. Yes.. that is what I have to do again- I have to work on getting my back and hip stronger according to my current physiotherapist.

I will work hard at getting stronger again  but I might just need to purchase a different comfy chair.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Summer Baking

I love baking and I am pretty fond of cooking in general.

I had a mom that could sew and could cook or preserve anything and she made sure I was capable of doing those kinds of domestic skills. My Dad made sure I could fix some things and that I was reasonably competent with wood working. My parents both worked and from a very young age I was often responsible for getting dinner on the table.

For many people making a meal is about so much more than sustenance, it is caring and sharing with your family and friends, it is a bit of a creative art and full of memories and love.

I had a period when I was not well enough to cook and it became one of my goals to reclaim those skills. I really did not understand how much it mattered to me until I was unable to do it for myself.
I find the same thing is true with the people I work with.  They might not have the energy or ability to be making meals anymore but that doesn't mean they no longer are interested in cooking and baking. It may have been part of their identity for most of their lives. Others might be new to it. I have had gentlemen join me in baking programs and tell me that they never got a chance to learn to cook because they were out working on the field. They never had the opportunity to learn many of the household skills but they were interested in having a go at it now.

I learned a lot about the very practical and individual skills needed in cooking and organizing from my occupational therapist,  and I feel very privileged to share some of that information and help our residents have a good experience.

I try to add to the practical skills some reminiscence opportunities where they can talk about their past experiences, I try to have it sensory so they can enjoy the colors smells and tastes of the food and supplies as well as to experience the kinetic movements such as stirring. I usually do some research about the ingredients or the foods we are cooking so I can share some knowledge or new ideas. I also try to work in some jokes and laughter. I think one of the most important aspects is in the sharing. When we work together and they eventually share the products of our work all of the cooks and bakers are so proud to have contributed and to sit and share with one another.

I have been trying to do seasonal baking at work and at home.

I look for easy recipes that can be broken down into several simple steps that will allow several people to participate. I can bring small groups of residents to the kitchen and use an oven and all the other handy things about a kitchen, I can also do some kinds of cooking closer  to the residents living spaces with the use of kitchen gadgets like slow cookers, toaster ovens and microwave ovens. One of the advantages of cooking on the floor is that the smell of baking is such a wonderful sensory experience and helps create new memories as well as remembering other experiences with home cooking.

In the past month we have made "Strawberry Poke Cake" and "Blueberry Dump Cake" with many more delicious items planned for the summer and fall.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Creating Art

This past week we had an Art Show for the Art Group I coordinate at the Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba.

We get together every Wednesday morning at the Stroke Recovery center. We put out lots of different art supplies and participants are able to work on anything they want to. This is certainly not an art class but an opportunity for self expression. Some enjoy the details and work on the same project for a period of weeks while others might produce several pieces in a morning.  I try to offer a new idea, technique or medium each month and encourage participants to give it a try. You never know when something new might turn out to be an activity you will love doing. The creative arts have a special role in helping us find joy and well being in our lives.

The group was originally organized by an Art Therapist and focused on a psychological therapeutic model. When she left the group continued on as a social and peer support group that enjoyed creating art. Eventually I began to help with the group. As a Recreation Therapist I try to support the social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs of the group members but always... enjoyment and fun need to be the priorities at our art mornings.

I try to encourage participants to try new things and engage in learning new skills.  We try to use weaker hands and eyes to gain improved control and strength and we try to work on any left neglect issues that might have occured with strokes.

Decision making, focusing attention, spatial processing, sequencing and planning as well as other cognitive skills can begin to improve as we work on creating art. We assist individuals in trying new tricks and adaptive methods to reach their goals. Something as simple as using painters tape can keep the art paper from sliding away and a Masonite board can increase options for supporting the paper at different, more comfortable angles, kind of like a clipboard. That painters tape can even result in an attractive border strip around a painting!

We share our friendship. We express ourselves through conversation and also with our art. We create. We share our accomplishments and we feel proud of what we achieve.

P.S. One of the ladies at the art show said I needed a picture of me at the art show. I was trying to get pictures of my artists but had not even thought of getting a picture of myself. The picture above was Vera's first attempt to take a picture with a phone and I think it is wonderful!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Fish Fry for the Seniors

Yesterday we did an interesting program at work. We had a fish fry lunch!

My co-worker, on this Fathers Day weekend shift, is a man who has a lot of past experience in leading  youth camping and other outdoor programming and he suggested that we go out on our patio and use an old fashioned Colman camp stove to cook up a fish fry! I thought that was pretty brilliant. With my camping experience we were on the same page about what a good experience this could be and how to do it!

My co-worker, D, took care of all the food aspects and I was supposed to do a few fishing games, fishing reminiscence and jokes but we didn't get all those extras fit in. I wound up spending my time inviting residents to join us for lunch and then transporting them to the patio.  I think they couldn't believe I was serious that we were having a cookout.

We have a small but  nicely treed fenced patio that is surprisingly pleasant oasis to have in our downtown facility surrounded by large buildings.  We set up a cooking station and had a picnic table set up with an old green Colman Stove. Our  menu consisted of  batter dipped cod fish fillets, bannock or fry bread and baked beans.  One fun aspect was that D. found some nice divided take out containers that we used as disposable dishes. They were perfect for our outdoor lunch. People loved sitting out on this beautiful day, listening to a favorite CD of country music, watching the camp cooking and eating such a rare style of cooking for a Personal Care Home. 

I was exhausted by 1 pm. so I was really glad we had planned an easy afternoon. My co-worker set up the dining room for watching a movie and put on a Three Stooges marathon DVD. Whoever wanted to watch it could.  This was a good choice because it is a series of very short films and on a day like Fathers Day there is a lot of coming and going of visitors, so it made it easy for people to join in at any point in the program or even for people to come and share a laugh with their loved ones.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Love. You. Run for Women

Yesterday was a great running event called Love. You.    Run for Women

It was an event in support of the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba sponsored by Shoppers Drug Mart and the Running Room. They also hosted runs in other provinces supporting  local mental health associations.

Did you know that in Canada,
  • On any given week, more than 500,000 Canadians will not go to work due to mental illness?
  • Mood disorders occur at a rate of 5.4 percent of the population.
  • 1 in 8 adults will suffer symptoms during their lifetime.
  • Seniors suffer at a rate of 1 in 4. 
  • Women suffer from depression at double the rate of men.
These are huge numbers!

My daughter and my 8 year old granddaughter took part in this run last year and this year my 5 year old grandson joined in too. They have a category for young children to run a kilometer just for fun and all the kids get a nice medal on a ribbon plus snacks and a loot bag.  After the 8:30 children's event we moved on to the 10K run or walk and to the 5 K run or walk. Our Mayor was even there and called the start for the race. It was all very exciting!  Next year I will bring a decent camera and  maybe I will be in good enough shape to try the 5K myself!

It was a nasty cold morning, near freezing, but keeping moving and then hot chocolate and a fleecy blanket all helped keep my little grand-kids warm. They had a few games for the kids, a photo booth, a wall to write encouraging thoughts on, a booth to raise awareness about mental illness. There was Japanese style drumming for entertainment and a few speeches- one included the news that they had raised, with the help of Shopper Drug Mart, over $40,000. That is going to go a long way to making a difference to a lot of people.

I know that life changing illness, such as stroke, heart attack, cancer diagnoses have a profound effect on ones emotional and mental health. I was very fortunate that as part of my rehab I was required to work with a social worker who was trained to support us in dealing with all the changes that were happening to me and my family.

People need to know that there is indeed help out there for mental health issues. If you or your family and friends are having a hard time you need to know that you are not alone.

From the Canadian Public Health Agency:

What is Depression?

Everybody goes through "ups and downs" in their lives. Sometimes we use the term "depression", or "depressed" to describe these everyday feelings.

But the normal experiences of life shouldn't be confused with the serious medical illnesses known as mood disorders. There are different kinds of depressive mood disorders, including bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), perinatal depression, but clinical depression, or major depression is the most common mood disorder.

Mood disorders are very real illnesses that can have serious and sometimes fatal results. They affect the entire body and not just the mind. Their physical symptoms can range from fatigue to stomach complaints or muscle and joint pain. Many people never realize that they are suffering from depression.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Let's Draw Recreation Therapy-- Video

I love this little video. It explains in under 3 minutes what I do at work!

One thing the video does not make clear is that we need to make the activities fit the needs of the individuals. My seniors would not be suited to doing a ropes course for a social activity but they do love singing along with an entertainer or having a discussion group and coffee party!

Therapeutic Recreation is not all about fun and games... We look at the person's current abilities and needs as well as their interests, their past hobbies, work history and what new things they might like to try. We use that information to help a person with recovery or to maintain their current skills.

Our main objective is to help people achieve a good quality of life.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

After the Fall

I had a fall in December and hurt my back as well as my stronger  hip and leg. I kind of looked like the guy in the caution sign.. twisted at the hip and landing on my own leg and bottom.  I have not missed any work but  I was on modified duties for some time and I have been taking it very easy at home. I also have done a lot of physiotherapy and my recovery has been much slower than expected.  I only have one more appointment covered by insurance and I am nowhere near the place I was before my fall. Dealing with insurance and all the non-recovery parts of this has been a bad experience. The fact that I have issues with my other, weaker, side, including a bad arthritic knee has really interfered with the course of my recovery, my exercises, and so on. Theoretically I can put in an appeal to have an extension of insurance for the physiotherapy but the process seems very intimidating and stressful and I am not confident that I will be successful.

I can not believe what a hard time I have been having with this. I have been in a lot of pain and really feeling limited in how I move, how much I move and how fast I move.  I have been taking lots of pain medications that upsets my tummy.  I am doing better now, lots better in fact, but not enough to sleeping well or enjoying activities.  One simple example is when we went to a movie in the theatre not long ago and I found it too painful to keep seated in the theatre chair, and too hard to get up and down out if it. Walking back to the car after sitting for the show was a challenge too. At home I am once again avoiding the stairs to my basement and asking family members to do my laundry and fetch items from the storage areas for me.

Fortunately my job actually has a lot of flexibility in the actual duties. There are a few physical aspects that can not be helped, but I have spent more time doing activities like reading out loud, sitting doing nail polish and playing board games. I have been avoiding things like games where I would need to do any bending or lifting. My co-workers have been very nice about it all but they were more than ready for me to get off modified duties and for work life to get back to normal. I have been really glad that I work so few hours so that I had time to recovery in between the days I work and now I think I am handling things pretty smoothly,

Anyway a big part of why I haven't been blogging much is because the main thing I have wanted to talk about is how miserable I have been feeling and that gets boring very quickly even to me. I have to remind myself that this is far from the worst challenges I have faced and I just need to persevere once again.

I have been waiting around for most of the winter for things to be all better and now it is almost summer so it is time to suck it up and just do Stuff.  .. Now to figure out just what that Stuff might be!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Conference Time

There are a bunch of interesting conferences going on in my area at this time of the year. This week I attended a  one day workshop organised by and for families dealing with Autism and other related disorders. Tuesday I am going to attend one day of the Alzheimer Societies' Dementia Care Conference. I am also hoping to attend our Provincial Girl Guide Conference at the end of April. 
About a week ago I attended my second conference with Recreation Connections of Manitoba and I had a wonderful time. I learned a lot and have come home with an assortment of information and ideas that I want to share in future blog posts!
Recreation Connection is a non-profit association that supports recreation in our province and Therapeutic Recreation is included as a branch of the organization. When I was in school we had the opportunity to attend a Fall therapeutic recreation workshop day. Last year I attended the full Spring conference for Recreation Connection for the first time.
I was very surprised by my experiences last year. I expected to benefit from the Therapeutic Recreation  related sessions but I was not so sure about all these other sessions on recreation in general and about community recreation facilities, fitness, the need for play, outdoor education, accessibility for recreation. I found myself absolutely loving it. More than that .. I felt knowledgeable. I liked the people I met, I was inspired, and I felt at home.
I had not put it together that I was interested in the Field of Recreation!  I knew I was interested in the therapy aspects but I had not thought about how much time I have spent learning about and supporting recreation in my community. Guiding ... is recreation. All the outdoor stuff we do .. is recreation. Swimming, boating, music, and all the arts I have participated in over the years... Yup recreation. I have attended so many trainings related to youth education and how organizations works and I am always reading up on different topics.  
I previously believed our University's Recreation Faculty was all about sports, fitness and kinesiology. I really have very little experience in sports so this whole field never really crossed my radar.  I have never been very fit or very athletic, in fact I was always that last person to be picked during gym class.
The fitness and sports programs really does predominate but... then there is  this other stream .. Bachelor of Recreation Management and Community Development. From their webpage:

Tomorrow's conference is on several topics dealing with dementia care which will seem very different from talking about the need for recreation and play.  I will be attending two break out sessions and  will listen to the following two keynote speakers. I am really looking forward to the day.

Increasing the Well-Being and Quality of Life of People with Dementia Using New Technologies
Dr. Klein will share her expertise on assistive technologies and emotional and social robotics.

Quality Care in Long Term Care: Is Dignity the Answer?
Ensuring that people living and working in long term care (LTC) are afforded with respect and dignity is an essential and humane concern.  with Genevieve Thompson
Quote above from the conference application.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Wall - A video

I thought this video was interesting. Take a look and see what you think.
I am a firm supporter for participation in the arts - It is for all ages.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Music and Brain Injury

Last night I was reading a post on a Facebook board for Therapeutic Recreation directors asking about how best to use music to help people who have had traumatic brain injuries. I actually got kind of worked up reading the responses. I felt that people might not be recognizing the difference between the needs of people experiencing dementia and those with TBI. 

I wrote a short answer to that post but really I have a lot to say on the topic. Music is so much more than entertainment. It is part of who we are, a part of our experiences and what we remember. It is what some of us marched to, what we danced to at our weddings, and what we sang as we rocked our babies.

I have always loved music and grew up with it around me. My dad played piano and I started piano lessons when I was in grade two. I was always singing and I even met my husband when we were both members of our high school choir. Our four children all took music lessons and I can't begin to add up the hours of lessons, and concerts we took part in.

After I had the brain injury I developed a love / hate relationship with sound. Music and sounds had a horrible effect on me. I was very easily overwhelmed by movement and noise. The sound of music made me nauseous and dizzy and any kind of beat seemed to kick that constant headache I was feeling into high gear.  The more the music, the less I was able to focus and the more disjointed my memory and thinking became. I cried because I was missing music that had loved and I cried because music had the ability to incapacitate me even  further than I already was.

As time went by my physical and occupational therapists started to do things like adding sound and music to sessions and trying to get me to tolerate the music. A lot of therapy for dizziness is in the category of .. " You are not going to like this.. but we are going to take you to the point of being dizzy and then back it down a bit so we can build up your tolerance. Don't worry I will jump out of the way when you start to throw up!". Yes it is absolutely that horrible and you have to keep going back over and over for more torture, also called VRT or Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy, if you want any chance of having a life outside your bedroom.

Gradually music, in small doses, became one of  my greatest therapy helps. I started guitar lessons and I am sure I would not have regained such full use of my hand if I had not worked so very hard to get my hand moving on that guitar.  What I did not realize at the time was what a big impact the music was having on helping me recover some of my cognitive skills, especially my memory and sequencing of tasks.

My husband and I joined a community choir and there I was - out of the house doing something new and something other than therapy sessions. It was social, it was a new kind of learning and it felt encouragingly like a normal person kind of thing to do.
As I began my journey toward becoming a Recreation Therapist it was arranged that I would volunteer at the Misericordia Hospital. One volunteer position was helping with the spiritual care, mainly transporting people, handing out music and singing my little heart out with the residents during services. The other main job was assisting in a group program led by a music therapist who came weekly to the attached personal care home. The music was so powerful in both programs and what joy it brought to the residents!

I must admit that I personally don't do that much with music when I am at work at the personal care home. I have lots of opportunity when I could choose to run a music programs, but I rarely do. I think I value the role of music so much that I don't think I can live up to my own standards for this kind of program. This issue is apparently something I currently need to work on. I either better get to be a better musician or get over my perfectionist tendencies when it comes to the topic. I will have to report back about my progress in the future.

 I wrote in a previous post about singing a karaoke song at an event at the Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba. That incident was very powerful for me in terms of mental and emotional health. The song I picked from the list of choices was the Beetles song, Blackbird. I was really scared to sing publically but I did it and felt so brave. When I finished there was no missing that I had an impact on the other people there. At first I thought they didn't like my singing or that the song was a bit too much. No, what happened is I had hit on a common emotion and wish for the group. It was what brought us together. We were all longing for the freedom of  having our broken wings fly again. We wanted our broken eyes to see again. To be free.
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life- You were only waiting for this moment to arise
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life- You were only waiting for this moment to be free
The power of music. 
Please note
 I was unable to find copyright info for the pictures this time. If there is a problem please let me know and I will gladly give credit or remove the pictures.

Monday, January 4, 2016

I Resolve...

On our very first cruise vacation last September.
New Years Day has come and gone.

I read a comment on one Facebook post about a group that started off the New Year singing Auld Lang Syne. A few minutes later they made their first resolution.. to learn the lyrics! How can you top a goal like that?

I have been going through the list of things I could or should work on this year and I was back to making the list of things I feel I need to improve or accomplish. Loose weight, get fit,  practice guitar, clean my house, sew a quilt, become a better artist, learn new skills,  and the list goes on and on.

 I usually think that my priority should be fitness. I am really acutely aware of how important it is to keep strong and keep your joints and muscles working their best. That is remarkably hard to do when you are exhausted.  Yes, yes.. you get fitter and then you have more energy and that is true even when we are talking about post stroke or brain injury fatigue. It can so hard to keep up a positive attitude.

I think what I need to do is to give myself permission to reduce stress and just rest and be kind to myself this year. I have worked long and hard to make changes in my life and I need to reflect on what I have already accomplished and experienced. I need to look for the small little things in life that bring peace and joy.

I do try to practice  mindful meditation and I truly believe that is what helps keep me going and positive. I want to try and bring some of that feeling to my everyday actions. This year I want to take time to focus on what I am doing and on the people I am with. If I am listening to music I want to focus on the music and not be mentally reviewing the lists of things I need to do that day. When I am doing an exercise I want to think about the exercise and focus on how that movement feels. I want to spend more time living in the moment. Not all moments can be joyful, but they are reality and a part of life and I want to give my all to those experiences too. 

I want to wish everyone a wonderful 2016 full of fun, joy, happiness and peace!

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