5 Ways To A Healthier You In 2022 – Stroke Prevention!

While our title, “5 Ways To A Healthier You In 2022 – Stroke Prevention!” is focused on this year, we must make note that In December 2021, the beloved American icon, Betty White passed away of a stroke at 99 years old. We feel the time to increase awareness of strokes and ways to prevent them is now! In recent years, younger adults are also experiencing strokes. Because up to 80% of strokes are preventable, you can practice the actions below to help reduce your risk.

  1. Nourish your body with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish, legumes, and nuts. Limit salt, sweets, and red meat.
  2. Increase physical activity. Engage in moderately-intense aerobic activity for 10 minutes 4 times per week, or vigorous aerobic activity for 20 minutes twice per week. Find a partner to exercise with you – you and your partner will both benefit.
  3. Begin a smoking cessation program if you smoke, and limit alcohol consumption. Tobacco and alcohol use significantly increases the risk of stroke.
  4. Take prescribed medications as directed to manage health conditions that may contribute to stroke risks, such as diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
  5. Keep an open line of communication with your healthcare provider, and collaborate on managing health by asking questions, exploring options, and sharing decision-making about other conditions that may increase stroke risks, such as sleep apnea or birth control use.

An occupational therapist can help you develop skills to better manage your health and to implement lifestyle changes. If you would like guidance and support to incorporate these actions into your daily routine, take a look at our services or give us a call at (314) 286-1669 #1.

American Stroke Association (stroke.org)

“Turn the lights on” this holiday season with iCST

The holidays are fast approaching and many people are preparing to gather with close family and friends. For many, this is a time to reminisce and think of fond memories from past holidays. It is also an opportunity to see a family member with dementia. Here are some tips and ideas for planning meaningful activities for your loved ones:
Ideas for holiday activities:
  • Smell different holiday scents such as pumpkin, cinnamon, and pine. Ask your loved one how it makes them feel when they smell each scent.
  • Watch holiday movies or listen to holiday music. 
  • Look through old family photos from previous holidays. Talk about how these photos make them feel.
  • Do a simple holiday art project.
  • Drive or walk around a neighborhood and look at holiday lights. Talk about which types of holiday decorations are your favorite.
  • Bake cookies and decorate cookies together. Provide your loved one with simple instructions as they assist with the baking. You can always buy premade cookies to decorate to simplify the activity.
  • Take a walk outside, talk about different things that you see while walking.
Tips for communicating with your loved ones:
  1. Speak clearly. Use short and simple sentences.
  2. Ask your loved one how they are feeling instead of asking them direct of factual questions.
  3. Provide your loved one with choices when they need to make decisions.
  4. When talking to your loved ones, stand directly in front of them so they can clearly see you.
  5. If you are unsure what your loved one is talking about, be sure to clarify with them gently. They may be saying one thing and meaning something else.
  6. Use gestures or visual aids to support communication.
Washington University Occupational Therapy offers services for patients with mild to moderate dementia to help stimulate cognition through individual cognitive stimulation therapy. iCST is a research-based program (and standard of care for dementia patients in the UK http://www.cstdementia.com/ ) that promotes prompting memories and thoughts to stimulate working memory for assimilation and manipulation of thought. In the program, an OT guides individuals with dementia and their loved ones through activities to help improve the individuals’ cognition and quality of life. Learn more about our program and how to make an appointment.

Self-Advocacy Leads to Better Health & Well-Being

Self-advocacy is often a phrase that may be misunderstood and certainly underappreciated when it comes to managing your own health and well-being.  It is a practice that can be learned by anyone.  An added benefit is that there is evidence showing when you learn how to self-advocate and practice it, you can improve your quality of life and pursue those things most important to you.

Self-advocacy refers to the process of effectively communicating, conveying, or negotiating your needs or interests in order for you to gain new knowledge, learn new skills, or gain access to resources that will help you achieve your goals.  Developing self-advocacy skills will help you build resiliency, or the ability to manage stressors in your life, and will boost your confidence or belief that you are in charge.

In our current health care system, a critical mandate for all health care providers is to deliver “client-centered care”.  While this may sound simple and obvious to many, it remains a challenge since health care has historically been focused on knowing what is best for clients or patients; after all, many people seek out health services to “fix” a problem they are experiencing.  Today though, many individuals seek out services to learn how to live with health conditions, some of which are chronic with no real permanent “fix”.  In order to meet the requirements for client-centered care, providers need to know your struggles/challenges/needs so they can provide you with options for your care and include you in making decisions about things that affect your life.

The time is right to build your own self-advocacy skills and here are a few simple things you can do to prepare for that next visit:

  • Be aware of what is going on with your health, your body, your routines, and habits.
  • Do your homework to understand how your health condition affects you doing the things you want or need to do.
  • Identify what is important to you, both in long and short-term timelines.
  • Engage in some problem-solving – if you are having specific issues, jot down what they are, when they happen, or other information. Your healthcare provider can use this to help with options.
  • Write down your specific needs, concerns, and goals to discuss with your provider when you visit, and make sure you take it with you.
  • Stay positive and focused; remember, it is your life, your health, your well-being and you are the one affected by the decisions you make.
  • Take a “partnership” approach with your healthcare provider and know that you too, will have some responsibility to make sure you meet your own needs and goals.
  • Continue to track/communicate with your provider about results over time. They value your efforts and doing this closes the loop and helps both parties be successful.

Learn more about Washington University Occupational Therapy patient services…

USAWR Brings Home Silver Medal!

Washington University Occupational Therapist & Instructor, Sue Tucker, OTD, OTR/L, ATP is an Assistant Coach for USA Wheelchair Rugby (USAWR), and this past week Sue was helping guide the team as they played on the big stage in the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020!

The USAWR Team had an outstanding showing at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, with the team going undefeated in the pool play portion of the tournament and continuing on to reach the Gold Medal Final against Great Britain.  A tough match against Great Britain saw Team USA bring home the Silver Medal during these Paralympic Games!

We want to highlight and congratulate Assistant Coach Sue Tucker, OTD, OTR/L, ATP who is a Therapist & Instructor for Washington University Occupational Therapy. Sue has been coaching with the USA Wheelchair Rugby team since 2013 and has more than 17 years of experience in coaching adaptive sports. When not coaching or teaching, Sue is a practicing therapist and works with adults and adolescents with neurological and orthopedic conditions affecting their mobility to provide comprehensive assessments to assist patients in obtaining the mobility device, seating systems, and/or assistive technology that best meets their needs for their preferred daily activities through our Wheelchair, Seating, Mobility & Assistive Technology program.

Once again we want to congratulate all Paralympic athletes, the USA Wheelchair Rugby team, and especially our Washington University OT, Sue Tucker.

Functional Neurological Disorder

Washington University Occupational Therapy has developed a program to treat patients experiencing functional neurological disorders. A Functional Neurological Disorder (FND) is a medical condition in which there is a problem with the functioning of the nervous system and how the brain and body send and/or receive signals.

The FND program at Washington University Occupational Therapy is provided to adolescence through adults who present with functional neurological disorder (FND) symptoms.

Functional neurological symptoms can include:

  • functional weakness
  • disassociative attacks
  • pseudo seizures
  • functional cognition
  • functional tremors
  • functional dystonia
  • functional tics
  • functional gait disorder
  • functional speech

FND program includes:

  • Education on diagnosis
  • Awareness training of triggers of FND symptoms
  • Training in FND management

The program is designed to assist patients in managing symptoms and taking control of their daily activities to resume life as they know it without an inpatient stay. Traditional FND programs require a multi-week inpatient stay.  Our program has adapted the inpatient program model but allows our patients to stay at home; while still engaged in their daily activities. Patients meet with our clinician within our outpatient clinic or via telehealth services.

Please call (314) 286 – 1669 or email OTClinical@wustl.edu to schedule an appointment.

Research on Parkinson’s Disease

Our Clinic Manager, Jamie Archer, MOT, OTR/L was recently published for her work on
Occupational Therapy Interventions for Instrumental Activities of Daily Living for Adults With Parkinson’s Disease: A Systematic Review. Congratulations to Jamie and her colleagues for their work and recent publication in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy (AJOT).

 

Click here or the journal image below to read the article:

 

AJOT Image

Strategies To Reduce Mental Fatigue

Here are some tips and strategies to help with mental fatigue:

  • Set aside time to plan and prioritize the tasks you need to accomplish for the day. Make a list and keep the expectations realistic. Be sure to allow a little time cushion for unexpected interruptions. Carving out this time to make decisions in advance will provide a reference to keep you on track and avoid undue stress and pressure to make decisions quickly.
  • Reduce distractions and focus on one thing at a time. For example:
    • Emails: If you are frequently interrupted by email notifications, simply log out of your email account. Incorporate time throughout the day to chunk the time you spend on emails. By intentionally checking and responding to email on your terms individual emails won’t veer your attention away from a task you are trying to check off your to-do list.
    • Conversations with co-workers: Using a good set of noise-canceling headphones or ear protection is another way to keep your attention focused. They also provide a visual cue to others so they will think twice before interrupting you.
  • Give yourself a break. When you notice your concentration waning and find yourself reading the same sentence over and over, you’re overdue for a break. Taking short breaks throughout the day can actually improve productivity and your mental fatigue. When you start working on a task, set a timer (20-25 minutes is a good place to start). When the timer goes off, take a short active rest break; stretch, step outside to observe the weather and sounds or do a short meditation in addition to the usual bathroom or snack breaks.  Set the timer again and continue what you were working on or move to the next task, etc. Adjust the length of time to your personal needs to optimize your productivity and focus.
  • Looking for additional information?  Learn more from Medical News Today

Physical Activity As An Occupation

Did you know physical activity is a main occupation for all human beings?  It just happens to fall under a larger umbrella “occupation” known as Health Management.  On a daily basis, we engage in many activities aimed at developing, managing, and maintaining health and well-being routines in order to support being able to participate in other, more widely recognized occupations such as work, childcare, volunteer work, or going to school.  In reality, many of us routinely spend time paying attention to our diet/nutrition because we need to eat and want to feel well.  We may take medications for a medical condition because our life depends on it, or we want to restore our health to a more normal state.  We connect with family members or other people to make sure we maintain or social and emotional health.  All of these examples are things we do to manage our health.  All of them are pretty “easy” to integrate into our daily routines.  We have regular meals, medications are prescribed to take at specific times, and social interactions happen by way of our other “main” occupations.  The same cannot be said for physical activity.  Integrating physical activity into our daily routine seems to come with many barriers, despite it being a major occupation that comes with multiple health benefits.  To be successful, physical activity needs to become a habit.  In order for that to happen, we need to value our efforts to improve cardiovascular status, strength, and balance knowing that doing so will help us maintain health and allow us to enjoy other parts of life.  Increasing physical activity does not need to be difficult – we just need to believe it is an important occupation and it’s helpful to actually like what you choose to do.  After all, humans were meant to move!

For some interesting information on becoming more active, check out the resources below.

https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm

https://www.10tipsforhealth.com/10-helpful-tips-how-to-get-and-stay-physically-active/

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/pa.html

American Heart Month “Self-Care” Routine Tips

Washington University Occupational Therapy works with our patients on self-management and self-care all-year-round. With February being American Heart Month we want to promote self-care heart-healthy tips for your daily routine. Below are some actions that you can include in your routine;

  • Get a daily dose of physical activity, such as a brisk, 30-minute walk.
  • Cook meals that are low in sodium and unhealthy fats.
  • Take your medications as prescribed and keep your medical appointments.
  • Sleep 7-8 hours a night.
  • Manage stress through yoga, mindfulness, and wellbeing, or quiet time with a book.
  • Try to reach or stay at a healthy weight by moving more and having snacks like fruits and veggies on hand when hunger kicks in.

Occupational Therapy, Technology, Healthcare Access and Telehealth

As we close out a month of celebrating Occupational Therapy 2020 during the COVID 19 crisis, we want to take time to reflect on some of the positive changes this unprecedented event has ushered in.  For the past 6-8 weeks, life has been something very different for all of us.  We have been told to “stay at home”, meaning more time with families, including meals, schooling, and leisure.  We have assumed new roles we really had not considered, such as substitute teachers and adapted to established roles with “new” ways of doing things, such as virtual meetings at work or social happy hours.  We gained new knowledge such as the difference between bacteria and a virus and how viruses need a host to survive.  We learned new skills, how to don/doff PPE, and even how to make homemade masks.  Some of us developed our volunteer roles to make those masks and some unlocked their creative spirit through other forms of art or doing.

Health care delivery also shifted in a much-needed way with a focus on expanding access to services while keeping patients or clients safe in their own environment through the use of modern technology.  Telehealth has been around for many years, making a slow appearance, but now has come to be a common offering many by many practitioners. COVID 19 ushered in the mass use of telehealth services across the country, ranging from telephone touch base visits to virtual visits with telephone and video capability.  Regulatory bodies and insurance companies relaxed their standards and opened up ways to make sure the process was still confidential and could also be billed by more providers.  Patients could stay at home, log in to an appointment, and continue to receive the great healthcare they expect and received through an in-person visit, in a more intimate and less distracting setting.

Washington University Occupational Therapy has been a part of the movement.  We have used telehealth to help patients develop cognitive, motor, and performance skills; use assistive technology, adapt techniques to complete daily needed tasks; modify work, home, or school environments; and create health-promoting habits and routines. We’re able to reach those who live distances or those who live nearby but have transportation challenges.  By removing access barriers and reducing our turn-around time to receive OT services, we are able to able to help our patients make improvements in the areas of occupational performance, adaptation, health and wellness, chronic disease management, health promotion, and quality of life.  While not every intervention we offer lends itself to telehealth or virtual visits, many do, and often a combination of in-person and virtual is very effective and convenient for our patients.  In this way, we are achieving our goals of improving access, delivering great care, and reducing overall costs via the streamlined use of telehealth.

We are very excited to be able to continue these services moving forward.  We know we offer services that others do not and are thrilled to be able to expand to reach more people who we know will benefit from what we have to offer. Take a look at our adult and pediatric services.