Awareness · Occupational Therapy

Summer Temperatures and Effects on the Brain

Days are averaging 105+ degrees for the last couple of months, and the heat does not seem to be going down any time soon. We are all familiar with the physical symptoms that extreme heat can cause: heat stroke, fatigue, dizziness, muscle cramps, etc. Since May, I have noticed an influx of patients being admitted due to altered mental status, hypernatremia, and increased risk of dehydration…with more than half of them being older adults or people who are homeless.

I have also noticed that I am exhausted by the end of the day. Especially on the days I hit traffic on my way home and then have to walk from the parking lot up to my 3rd floor apartment. Lately, I get home and go straight to the shower, followed by a nice nap. 💤
The heat really slows me down and I have not had energy to do anything OT-related (research, brainstorming ideas, blogging, etc.) after getting home from work. I can only imagine how my dad feels after working all day outside in the sun doing construction.


So why does heat decrease cognitive performance? When the hypothalamus (part of the brain that monitors temperature) receives the signal that our body temperature is rising, the brain sends signals to different chemicals in our bodies to work on regulating our body temperature. Glucose is not only our source of energy, it is also important for temperature regulation. When glucose gets depleted, it leads to less energy for brain function. Below is a diagram that I found online that easily explains the cooling and warming mechanisms of the hypothalamus:

thermo


Impact on Cognitive Performance by Increased Temperatures:

  • Decreased attention and focus
  • Slower reaction times
  • Decreased working memory
  • Difficulty with completing complex tasks – The is due to the fact that the brain is in thermoregulation mode and trying to achieve homeostasis rather than trying to sustain the brain capacity needed to complete complex tasks
  •  Balance deficits
  • Vision difficulties
  • Difficulty executing activities that involve psychomotor skills:
    • driving a car (ever get drowsy while driving a car in the summer?)
    • hand-eye coordination activities: catching a ball, hitting a ball
    • typing
    • playing a musical instrument
  • …and more.

As an OT, it’s important to take into consideration any cognitive deficits patients present. This is because cognitive deficits can lead to impaired safety awareness and processing skills impacting their independence with daily activities. By assessing and addressing patients’ cognitive functioning, we are able to provide strategies for appropriate care by staff during their stay and for discharge planning with the necessary resources and recommendations.


Tips for Dealing with Warm Temperatures


Stay safe and cool this summer! It’s been too warm for my liking in Arizona, but they keep telling me cooler months are coming!

To read more about this topics, visit the following links:

Occupational Therapy · OT School

Graduate School and Earning Money

Between assignments, tests, and trying to balance a social life, many students consider working in order to save up some money while in graduate school. I personally did not start working until my second semester of graduate school, which was when I had finally established study methods that worked for me and had a much more balanced lifestyle.

While working is not for everyone in a graduate program, there are plenty of jobs that are flexible enough to not intervene with study time:

  • Server – Convenient hours and flexible schedule that you can base around your school schedule. You can also make decent tips to take home along with your paycheck. There are restaurants everywhere, so finding a job is not difficult, especially in a college town.
  • Tutoring – Arrange tutoring hours based on your schedule, location, and determine what you want to tutor people in. You can either tutor through a contract company, your school, or word of mouth/posting flyers, or posting on social media.
  • Exercise Instructor – Many grad students in OT and PT school hold some sort of certification to teach exercises classes (ie: Yoga, Barre, Pilates, Cycling, Swimming,  Zumba, etc). You can set your teaching schedule based on your learning schedule, plus you’ll also get a workout! (Keep in mind these certifications can be pricey. Many of my friends got their certifications prior to starting grad school and had been teaching for some time. So please give it some thought before you invest in instructor courses).
  • Rehab technician/Therapy aide – Rehab facilities (especially outpatient clinics) are always willing to hire student interested in the rehabilitation field. They work around students’ schedules and you’re able to get hands-on experience with patient care. 
  • Child/Senior Care/Caregiver – Websites like care.com and sittercity.com make it easy to find babysitting and caregiver jobs. It can be a job with set days and hours or an as-needed basis (ie: date nights). I was babysitting regularly for a few families and it helped me save a decent amount of money. A few people from my cohort also had caregiver jobs. Many of us found these families from the cohort before us. Many of these families stick to graduate students and know they eventually graduate, so making connections is important this aspect. 

While these are not all the flexible jobs out there, these are the common ones people I personally knew had. Many programs have work-study opportunities so definitely take time to research that. 

Awareness · Occupational Therapy

Just

A simple 4-letter word that, depending on where it is placed in writing or conversation, minimizes what you are communicating. It is one of the most common words used in the English language and often used as a filler:
I’m just a [insert profession here].
I’m just taking a couple of classes.
I’m just working out a couple days a week.

Continue reading “Just”
Activities and Projects · Occupational Therapy

LEGO®️ and Brain Benefits

The LEGOs the majority of us grew up with have been around since 1949. Interlocking bright-colored, plastic bricks to build whatever our imaginations came up with…and the pieces we had allowed us to. During more recent years, many people have expressed concern about more set kits being manufactured, requiring people to follow “strict guidelines.” I have had conversations with people saying the same thing, or have heard someone make a comment as we walk down the toy aisles at Target and come across Lego set after Lego set. I understand why people may think this. Having a boxed set of specific colors, pieces, and instructions limits the creativity compared to the classic Lego sets. However, as someone who enjoys challenging different functions of the brain, I believe putting together sets with specific instructions is just as important as being creative.

Continue reading “LEGO®️ and Brain Benefits”

Activities and Projects · Occupational Therapy

Multi-Purpose Magnet Board

Easy DIY poster board for all your OT needs! I was brainstorming ideas for one of the clients I work with that is nonverbal, but does use a homemade communication board: whiteboard with “yes” and “no” written on it. When you ask a question, the client uses their hand to point to the corresponding answer. I noticed that the words were always in the same location: “Yes” on the right and “No” on the left. Due to the various diagnoses, I wanted to make sure the client was scanning and thinking through the answer, instead of just memorizing where each answer was on the whiteboard. I made two variations of the multi-purpose magnet board, one for the specific client, and a larger one that can be used in the therapy gym for other clients. Continue reading “Multi-Purpose Magnet Board”

AOTA · Fieldwork · Occupational Therapy · OT School

Gifts and Stocking Stuffers

Gifts for the Occupational Therapists in your life.

The holidays are among us and you’re almost done with your list…except you notice you still don’t know what to get for the OT, COTA, or student in your life. You’re torn between something handy, something fun, or something functional. Here’s a list of some of the items I have found helpful as both a student and new practitioner and some of the ones I wish I would have had to ease the transition from graduate school to the real world.

Continue reading “Gifts and Stocking Stuffers”

Occupational Therapy

11 Things I’m Thankful For

2018 has been a huge year for me. I decided to really reflect on what I’m thankful for this year. I was going to make it 10 things, but I had trouble narrowing it down and since November is the 11th month, then why not make it 11? Here’s my list:

Thankful

Continue reading “11 Things I’m Thankful For”