Tuesday, February 22, 2011

24 year-olds in nursing homes

I received an excellent submission form a reader on an article that was new information to me and very interesting. This article discusses how a growing number of nursing home residents are actually under the age of 65. Apparently, this groups suffers traumatic injuries and their families cannot afford to take care of them, either financially or because of time. As a result, they are put in nursing homes where they can get the care they need. Some people are in nursing homes because its cheaper than a hospital.

The problem is that they are still young (some are in the 20s) and want to play their music loud, get up late, eat late and hang out. This can be a problem when the people with whom you live get up at 7 am and go to bed at 9pm. They also mentioned how people are dying and that makes them very sad.

I think it is a very interesting article for occupational therapists and the health profession to review and consider. I hope you take the time to read it!


Change is good

As you know, I take voting VERY seriously. We had a mayoral election here in Chicago today, and, of course I voted! Mr. Rahm Emanuel is our new mayor, which is interesting because Mayor Richard Daley has been mayor since I was maybe 7 or 8 or something like that. He's the only mayor I really know and I'm almost 32 years old! The only other mayor I remember is Mayor Harold Washington, the first and only black mayor. I remember going to a restaurant as a kid and my dad being so excited to meet him. Mayor Washington was so gracious, I remember him picking me up...I think there's a picture of that somewhere around here.

Well, anyway, what struck me about this mayoral race is that all the candidates were minority or 'other.' At least 3 candidates were African-American, 2 were Latino/Mexican and one was Jewish. It was very culturally diverse. For Chicago, this is significant because Chicago is well-known for being a major city that is very racially segregated.

And this is quite true.

To this day there are some neighborhoods that make me nervous after a certain hour because of previous unpleasant racial experiences. Chicago is also a city with a very large black population that has historically voted for black candidates. This is mostly due to the fact that until recently the only option was white candidates and we were excited to have other options, but that's a topic for another day. This is interesting to note because Mr. Emanuel won a HUGE percentage of the black vote, he won the majority of the black vote in every ward in Chicago.

I won't tell you who I voted for in this election because I don't want my beliefs plastered all over the Internet. haha. But I will tell you that I don't vote along racial or party lines. I vote for whom I believe will best serve my interests. I did not vote 'black' in this election. I know this has nothing to do with occupational therapy but this is very important to me. I believe very strongly in voting. I hope these rants encourage people to make more of an effort to vote in future elections. I'm always very disappointed and agitated with people who give crappy reasons for not going to the polls. Anyway...

I am very happy to have a new mayor.

Change is good.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

FAQs-How I found Costa Rica & Dominican Republic

I received a question asking how I found the families I stayed with in DR and CR. I performed an EXTENSIVE Google search for Spanish immersion programs. For weeks, I looked at websites and compared amenities and prices. I asked around my network to get more information on the experience and how things work.

Finally, I settled on this company--Spanish Abroad. They have a very comprehensive site and I learned a lot about the different countries just from perusing their site. I had no idea if they would take my money and run but I just went with it and it worked out very well! I chose the countries based on how much money I wanted to spend and CR & DR were two of the cheapest. Ecuador and Guatemala are pretty cheap as well but I was concerned for my safety. In hindsight I wish I had gone to Guatemala as well.

Anyway, they enroll you in the school and book your time with the family. You are responsible for your flight, although they give you arrival and departure parameters. Your school books and two of your meals are included in the price. You can choose to stay in an apartment if you don't want to live with a family. Don't think that just because you live with a family you will practice Spanish. I lived with one family that was too busy to talk to me and another family that spoke English very well so they always spoke English to me first, which was annoying as H-E-double hockey sticks. But, overall, they were both amazing experiences.

So, I have learned that the total experience is very dependent upon that country's Spanish school, the family you stay with and the country itself. I had some experiences that weren't so great. Unfortunately, I won't share them here on the Internet for the world to see because some people may get offended and it just makes me look bad.

But, buyer beware. I have not had a bad experience with Spanish Abroad, however, they are just a broker. They only set-up the experience; the family, the school and the country you choose MAKE the experience. Plus, your attitude and expectations makes a big difference, too. Go with low expectations because our living standards here in the US are very, very different than many countries Spanish Abroad offers. I knew that going in so I wasn't too surprised at what I saw and experienced.

If you use them, please tell them I referred you. I think my Spanish immersion trips are over because I can't squeeze any more money from my family and friends, haha, plus a lot of my savings is slowly dwindling away, however, you never know what the future holds. I'd like for Spanish Abroad to know that I speak highly of them.

Good luck!

(As a side note, to the young lady that left the question, I could not send you a direct email because I didn't have an email address. I think you responded directly to the blog instead of entering your email address. Anyway, I hope this answers your question. If not, email me back, I'd love to hear from you again! Thanks!)

School, Toilets and Friendship

Two things to make you smile today:

1. My classmates and I were complaining about how tired we always are and how there is always so much to do that we never get to do things we really like, such as spend time with our families, read interesting books, hang out with our friends til the wee hours, and sleep.

The 6 year-old son of one of my classmates asked her to play with him and she said, "Ok, I have some homework to do first and then I can play with you."

To which he quickly replied, "You never spend any time with us anymore. I hate school; I'm never going to school, not even after college!"

For some reason, that cracked me up!

2. Another classmate left her bag and coat in class but was nowhere to be found and the professor had started teaching. I asked another classmate where she was and found out she wasn't feeling well and went to the bathroom.

When she returned and found out that I inquired and was interested in her whereabouts she said, "Wow, you asked about me? That's awesome, thank you for thinking of me! I was in the bathroom on the toilet and I thought about you, too!"

I just shook my head and turned away. Not the image I needed at that moment.

More thoughts on (air quotes) free money

So, in regard to that last post on (insert air quotes here) free money (insert sarcastic face here), my classmate made a great point that somehow alluded me. She reminded me that paying a couple of thousand in taxes for (insert air quotes here) free money (insert sarcastic face here) is MUCH better than paying $50k+ in student loans.

Ok, dear Classmate.


You are right and I stand corrected.

And I'm going to shut-up about it now.

Why *FREE* money is not really free

Ok, um, apparently, I didn't get the memo!

Why didn't anyone tell me that if you get scholarship money for school the U.S. government considers that income and taxes it up the yee-yang?!

Apparently when you think that income literally means going to work and making money you are sadly mistaken.

Income means ALL money that comes your way. Even free money. Period.

What gets me is that you are supposed to use your student loan and scholarship money for school and living expenses. If I have to pay taxes on this *free* money, where does the money to pay the taxes by April 18th come from? Isn't a misuse of funds to use the *free* money to pay the government?

Are the words *free* and *scholarship* misnomers?

Just curious.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hand puppets & Pin the Tail on the Turkey

After making puppets, two of the kids spontaneously performed a puppet show for me! It was lovely!

These puppets were supposed to be Pilgrims and Indians (Native Americans).

The Pilgrims had hats and the Indians (Native Americans) had feathers. I am personally opposed to the 'Pilgrim' and 'Indian' image as I have very strong views about the way their relationship is portrayed to school children. I won't get into my personal views here because the point is that the activity was excellent.

The children were allowed to decorate them as they pleased using yarn for hair and the mouth, crayons, markers, bubble eyes and pom-pons for the nose. We had to guide some of the children with the decorations but most did well using their imaginations.

We played a Pin the Hat on the Turkey game. This game was great for social interaction, communication, following directions, knowing body parts in space (while the eyes are closed), vestibular regulation (because we would spin them around), taking turns (some of the kids struggled with this) and a host of other performance skills. This is an excellent activity.

Just a picture to illustrate how small the kids' chairs are. This picture does no justice, really. Those chairs are either really, really tiny or I am really, really big. It may be a bit of both. lol. But, I thought it was so cute that their chairs were so small. The blue chair, although it looks larger, is still small in comparison to an adult chair because it is a chair made for a larger child. I had to sit in the red chair sometimes so that I could be eye-level with the kids. It was uncomfortable because I could not scoot under the table like the kids because I am too big!

Pediatric projects--turkey and cornucopias

The kids made turkeys by tracing their hands, cutting out the shape and gluing feathers onto the paper.

The kids also made cornucopias by cutting out their favorite foods from magazines and food ads and gluing them onto the cornucopia.

(Apparently, this kid likes sugar)

Another turkey on the bulletin board.

I like these activities because they help you determine if the kids are sensitive or sensory averse to glue, construction paper or feathers. You can determine bilateral integration by looking at how and if they cut. You can assess fine motor skills by looking at how they hold the pencil when they trace their fingers for the turkey. You can determine their problem solving skills by how they cut corners and around weird areas when cutting out the pictures from the magazine. You can look at their posture while cutting and writing and you also assess their attention span and ability to concentrate on activities and follow directions. You can also assess communication and social interaction by how and if they share. Asking them what types of foods they eat for Thanksgiving also assess communication and social interaction skills and you can learn about their immediate familial cultural. (As a side note, I was disappointed to see one teacher correct a student when he said he does not eat pumpkin pie or stuffing for Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving and stuffing is a personal experience. In my family we don't eat either. Instead, we eat sweet potato pie and dressing, a typical Southern Thanksgiving meal. So, please be mindful when talking to students that we are respectful of culture and differences).

These are just a few examples of what you can assess by these activities. The kids are having fun, you're having fun and you're also learning about their performance skills. These are awesome school-based occupational therapy activities.

Pediatric Bulletin Boards

A bulletin board of turkeys and cornucopias of the kids' favorite foods.

A bulletin board at another school of turkeys and handwriting samples.

Towards the end of my fieldwork we made Christmas trees and candy canes! If you look closely you can see the pom-pons or 'balls' as one of the kids called it in my last post. :-)


The riders taking riding lessons would sometimes mount here. Those receiving hippotherapy did not mount from here because it requires an extreme amount of balance and core coordination and strength.

One of the horses used for hippotherapy or riding.

Isn't this horse beautiful?

This is one of the 'stations' where we asked the kids to pick up toys that were strategically placed or place toys on the ledge.

A saddle used by one of the riders. None of the occupational therapists or other therapists use this saddle.

Instead they used a 'saddle' like this, it's more pliable and wider than a regular saddle. This is a smaller horse that can sometimes be a bit moody, haha. We used this horse and then had to switch to another horse as the rain torment increased.

The horse being led into the loading area. I can't remember the exact name of the area.

This is a smaller horse that can sometimes be a bit moody, haha. We used this horse and then had to switch to another horse as the rain torment increased.

Mounting a child on the horse. It often took 2-3 people to mount one child. The larger the child, the more effort to mount the child.

(For obvious reasons I can't show the faces of the children although I do have permission to post these pictures. I hope you can get an idea of what hippotherapy is like although the pictures aren't as clear as I'd like).

During my pediatric fieldwork, I had the opportunity to observe a hippotherapy session. In case you are unaware, hippotherapy is therapy (in this case performed by an occupational therapist although it can be performed by other professionals as well) that utilizes the movements from the horse. From what I saw, the children LOVED it and really respond well to it.

After mounting the child on the horse we each stood on the side of the horse to hold and balance the child. Up to 4 people helped and we never stood behind the horse. I learned that standing behind the horse causes them a great deal of fear and in response they will kick back. Horses have strong legs and kicking back is never good when a human is behind them, obviously.

We then walked around the stable for 30 minutes. Sometimes we would position the child backwards to work different muscles, or hold toys out in front of them or to the sides asking them to reach for the toys or point to the toys to assess and evaluate their balance, coordination or other performance skills. Sometimes we would stop at a station and ask them to reach and pick up a toy or place it in a bucket or place it down on the ledge.

At one point it started to rain, HARD, with thunder and lightening and the horses freaked out. I was terrified. I know nothing about horses and to see them whining and walking frantically and the stable owners trying to calm them was frightening for me. It was mostly frightening because they are HUGE animals and you don't want to be on the side of one while it's scared. There was a lot of calming action and 'shhh' noises by the occupational therapists and stable owners to calm the horses.

I think hippotherapy is an interesting form of therapy and I highly recommend an observation if you have the opportunity.

How are you feeling today?

See my name? Apparently, I was very tired that day...

If you look closely, you'll see that my classmate drew a picture of me! Lol. That was when I had that funky ponytail with a headband matching my outfit. I think she did a pretty good job.

Last semester when we were discussing sensory integration and sensory processing our teacher started the class by posting paper on the door and asking us to both write and draw how we were feeling that day. We all had a ball with that one. It was interesting to see what everyone wrote and how they drew/described how they were feeling.

Disappearing Clock

A clock indicating that he has time to complete the activity.

As time goes on, the instructors can fold over the flaps to indicate how much time is remaining --15, 10, 5 or 0 minutes remain.

The flaps make the clock disappear, creating a visual reinforcement.

The clock is gone! Time is up!

For my Assistive Technology class last semester we had to come up with an idea for an assistive tech device for a student. I chose to create a prototype for a student with Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD). Autism and Asperger's Syndrome are two of the most well-known forms of PDD.

This particular student does not respond well to transitions. To my knowledge, his team of instructors at school do not give multiple notifications of the upcoming activity. I suggested that we use a clock that counts down the time of the current activity. If he can 'see' that time is decreasing on his current activity while at the same time someone is verbalizing the countdown AND providing deep pressure on his shoulder or arm to get his attention, he may be more receptive to ending that activity and starting a new one.

In the real world this would probably be laminated or created using a computer or something but you get my drift. Some of my classmates actually created their assistive technology and gave it to the students, who were elated, of course.

Graduation is around the corner

I'm a member of the Board of our school's Master of Occupational Therapy Club. We decided to welcome the incoming occupational therapy students with treats and snacks. I thought it was very thoughtful of us.

In April, we have our third, and final, Level I Fieldwork. This fieldwork is Adult Physical Dysfunction, such as Traumatic Brain Injury, Spinal Cord Injury, Cerebrovascular Accidents (Stroke), etc. After that it's Level II Fieldwork...whoo hoo, SCARY! And then after that, it's GRADUATION. I don't think you understand how excited, and nervous, I am to graduate.

Excited, because, well, it'll be the end of my life as a Master's student and I'm completely ready for that. School is physically, emotionally, and mentally taxing and I'm just downright...tired. I need a break.

I'm nervous because it'll be the end of my life as a Master's student (haha, same reason) and the beginning as an Occupational Therapist professional. Everything that I've been studying and waiting and hoping and praying for will come to be around this time next year. That's amazing.

I'll have to study for the Board and start preparing to life my life as a professional. This is my second career and it's pretty exciting...and scary.


More Domincan Republic pics

Another interesting picture from the Dominican Republic. I was curious as to why bars would be placed on the upper levels of an apartment building. I was told it's because people climb the building to rob homes.

The crime in Chicago is sky high and people do outrageous things here so I am totally not judging. But, I thought it was interesting enough to share.

Splinting 101

Hands are so important...and so complex.

A more complex hand splint than the one I had for my finger last year (it's been a year! Can you believe it? Wow. My finger is still doing quite well.)

Two of my classmates are practicing on each other. Here they're making the outline to use as a template.

Here my classmate is creating a template for my hand/forearm.

A template I created for myself for my hand.

Here I am creating the template myself for my hand/forearm...

The finished template.

We have a class on creating hand splints. As of now, I'm fairly certain I am not interested in anything having to do with hands, including splinting. Learning about forces and vectors is interesting though and the process is pretty fun.

In case you're unaware a splint is basically just a tool or device used to immobilize parts of the body to prevent further injury so that the surrounding tissues can heal. It's kind of like a cast. Remember when I lacerated my extensor tendon and I had that strange white thing on it? That was a splint for the finger. That should give you a general idea of what splints do. The splints we will create in class will be much more elaborate than the one I had but you get the idea.

Finally, a bit on Certified Hand Therapists. So, CHT's are occupational therapists (and to my knowledge they are also physical therapists) with 5 years of practice in hand therapy, including passing a national certification exam. CHT's focus on injuries of the hand (surprise!), the wrist, the elbow and the shoulder. They assess, plan interventions and evaluate outcomes of hand therapy services. CHT's have to meet very rigorous standards.

So, there you have it! Splinting 101!