Energy Conservation for the Holidays

Energy Conservation is a favorite topic of mine. It involves a combination of strategies designed to let you save your energy on the multitude of tasks in a day so that you can save it for the things that matter most in your life. Holidays can be very draining, but here are some ways to save your energy. Please add your own suggestions in the comments section.

Tips for Family Get-togethers
-Try to limit excessive travel (I speak from experience- last year was a 10 day 8 location trip).
-When you do travel, make sure to take rest breaks at least every 2 hours to get out of the car and stretch. Rotating driving responsibilities is also a good idea
-Rotate hosting responsibilities within the group so that no one person has to bear the brunt of continual entertaining
-Consider meeting friends at a restaurant or other gathering place
-If you're doing the entertaining, ask for setup and cleanup help
-Try to take a nap before any gathering that will go into the evening hours

Tips for Meal Prep
-Spread the responsibilities around the family or group. Have people volunteer to make a specific dish so that the host is not saddled with the entire meal
-Prepare some dishes ahead of time if possible
-Use tools to save you time and effort. This includes mixers, microwave, and the crockpot
-Try to prepare more foods in the crockpot or bake them in the oven instead of cooking stovetop, since it requires less tending
-Keep a stool or extra chair in the kitchen so you can take breaks during cooking time. A higher stool can be pulled up directly to the stovetop for stirring pots, or to the sink to wash dishes
-Oven Bags can cut the cooking time for a turkey down substantially and decrease basting needs
-Perform prep tasks seated at table if possible
-Split large tasks between a group

Food Substitutions
-Several stores offer completely catered meals
-A rotisserie chicken can be substituted for making a full turkey
-Steam n' Mash Potatoes by Ore Ida are pre-cut potato pieces that you add to your own milk, butter, and spices. Saves the trouble of peeling and cutting the potatoes.
-Betty Crocker and Bob Evans both have instant mashed potatoes that can be heated up in the microwave. They also offer sweet potatoes and stuffing.
-Many schools offer cookie batter in large buckets as fundraisers, making cookies into a scoop & bake operation

As always, I have no relationship, financial or otherwise, with any of the aforementioned companies or products. However, I have used them myself frequently.


Post from the Alzheimer's Reading Room

The Alzheimer's Reading Room is not my favorite blog, but I do follow it regularly. I was impressed at this recent entry that described the author's change in his caregiving style as he learned about Alzheimer's Disease. The emphasis on the power of DOING is great, and I wish that this would become well-known. The case is similar for adults with Alzheimer's, people with disabilities, children, ANYBODY- "Let me do."


A "very special" episode of Glee

I have been occasionally watching "Glee" and trying to decide whether it's worth my viewing time. However the most recent episode and its after-school-special sugaryness has exposed a lot of controversy.

There are 2 main issues here, one with the show for casting a non-disabled actor to play a student in a wheelchair, and one with the episode itself, which featured terribly contrived dialogue to try to make the other glee-clubbers understand Artie's plight of being in a wheelchair.

Let's start with the immersion exercise episode where the self-centered glee clubbers were relegated to spend a few hours each day in a wheelchair. The students' teacher rolls out wheelchairs that he supposedly bought at a tag sale from a local nursing home. Of course these were all sleek, more stylish chairs than that bear no resemblance to the standard industrial type chairs seen in hospitals and nursing homes. A nitpick, admittedly, but that's how I am. The whole episode was painful to watch as the glee geeks were more mistreated than usual now that they were wheelchair users. Cool kids are now... uncool! Feeling left out over a week leads to... increased empathy 4-evar! We even had time to learn that ex-quarterback kid couldn't manage to find a job... until he was in a wheelchair and had pity and fear of litigation from an employer! It just didn't feel like an empowering week. And this may also be part of a commentary on how poorly defined this show is... is it made for children and tweens or is it made for adults? The fake pregnancy pentagon storyline is surely not made for the young crowd, but you'd expect older viewers to rant about the terrible plotlines in general. Confusing.

However, the meat of this discussion should be about the casting of the role of Artie, and some of the controversy was addressed in the USA Today. Why wasn't a legitimate actor-singer-wheelchair user cast to play Artie, glee club geek in a wheelchair? Here's a second, perhaps more telling question- how many such actor-singer-wheelchair users auditioned? From the way that actor Kevin McHale describes his audition, I find it questionable that the role was ever advertised to indicate that the actor would be in a wheelchair. It sounds like this was a plot twist to increase diversity that got thought of after the casting and got shoved onto an already created character. I have the impression that the role was created around the actor, so perhaps the casting calls were not worded in a way to invite wheelchair users to audition.
sidenote- if you watch the McHale interview, how does a kid who plays an adolescent have no idea what time schools are in session? "From 8 to 12 or whenever"?

I don't think that the character of Artie is a great ambassador of teenage wheelchair users anyway. As a member of the glee club, he is often hanging out on the sidelines with the band instead of participating in the show. If he is worked into the routine, it often involves another character pushing him around. The writers went out of their way to end this episode with a big musical number that had everyone swooshing around in wheelchairs, but did they consult a wheelchair dancer for choreography tips? I have my doubts. And if my earlier suppositions about the wheelchair being thrust onto a character after the actor had already been selected, why not put Mark Salling, who plays buff ne'er do well football star Puck into a wheelchair, to be a buff ne'er do well wrestling star? Artie could have continued to be the geeky guy who plays the guitar, he also could have been the much-mocked kicker on the football team. Wouldn't that have made for some better, more original storylines than putting the dorky kid in the wheelchair?

Should an able-bodied actor ever play a character that has a disability? That is the main question. In one sense, all acting is fakery. Hollywood does not always hire sports stars, drug addicts, or serial killers to play themselves. But certainly a capable actor who has the same abilities as his character would have a better understanding of how to play the role well. The real issues in this question are-1. are disabled actors being considered? and 2. are non-disabled actors giving an unfair portrayal to disabled characters? The Iris Center, out of Vanderbilt University, has a catalogue of movies about disability or featuring disabled characters. Some of these movies feature great performances, but are they demeaning? One mother in the UK is starting a group
criticizing portrayals of characters with mental or neurological impairments (nothing about physical impairments, oddly) who are played by actors who do not have a disability. One thing that I worry about though is if there becomes a taboo on non-disabled actors playing disabled characters, will disabled actors ever be allowed to just be actors, and not be identified first by a disability?


Some sad times

My time at work has been sad lately.
My current rotation has been a mighty mishmash of cardiopulmonary pts on intensive and progressive care units, orthopedic pts, and frequent floating back to the neuro floor and ICU. In short, my pts have been much more acutely ill than on my other rotations.

It's very depressing seeing pts on multiple admissions for severe COPD or CHF exacerbations. People who are far past where cardiopulmonary rehab can be beneficial. I've had several pts travel back and forth from the regular floor to the ICU, but I have a couple that I'm concerned aren't likely to come out. I've had to get much more diligent about checking with nurses even for follow up sessions since my pts fluctuate considerably from day to day. Got as close as I care to get to a pt coding... me throwing on a contact isolation gown and slapping a vitals machine onto a lady who was hyperventilating, desatting, and gasping in pain. Fortunately the doctor and charge nurse were right behind me, so I was able to excuse myself and let them perform the rapid response and take her to the ICU.

My neurology pts aren't faring much better. Someone I evaluated several weeks ago while on that rotation is now nearing a full 2 months hospitalized and has just gotten progressively functionally worse. I wonder if she would have been happier if the surgeons left her brain tumor in and let her live out the rest of her life still able to walk and talk and recognize her family. Her shoulder now has a finger width subluxation that I feel personally responsible for.

She is one of several people we've had with GBMs lately, a particularly nasty type of brain tumor with very poor prognosis. Also had the readmission of a young CA pt that I worked with prior, who was intubated, had to get a PEG tube, and generally declining. I couldn't even look toward the back corner of the unit without choking up.

I've also had some personal disappointment lately, and have felt pretty bad for being swayed by that at all, having any negative emotions over this minor speed bump in life when I still have life and many of my pts are losing theirs. So it's been a very emotional time, a lot of tears at home, some at work. Not such a great time lately, but it will improve, I hope.


Back From Conference

State OT conference was this weekend and I had both an enjoyable time and very energizing time.
Finishing and presenting my topic at the state conference were both great feelings. I haven't given a formal presentation since school, and it was even longer since I'd given one in front of (mostly) strangers. I felt a bit like a motormouth and know that I set out to cover too much for my 30 minutes, but it was a good experience. The official title was "Growing as an OT Through Online Resources" but it was basically a quick overview of multiple types of online tools (with several plugs for OT Connections, haha). Only bummer was that my presentation was last so people were tired and quiet by the time I came up to talk.

Got to spend some good time catching up with fellow alumnae of my program, quick chats with a couple of professors as well. Serendipitous moment was seeing a car with license plate "OTHELPS" as we were driving back.

Love the energizing feeling that comes from being with other OTs, hearing about legislative victories, hearing some inspirational stories of rehab at its best. Have some ideas about helping our conference continue to grow, and I enjoyed presenting and think I can do that again with less stress. Have another project that I'm working on this week and then will be working the next 3 Sundays due to holiday scheduling so life continues to be very busy. Learning a lot on the cardiopulmonary floor and will be passing it along soon! :)