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!

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