Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Featured Product: The Looky

Wait until you see our featured product this week! As you know, we are ever on the search for unique and useful products. This one knocked our socks off. The Looky is a small, electronic handheld magnifier that weighs only seven ounces and can fit in a pocket. You can use it as you would a typical magnifier by popping out the ergonomically designed handle, or you can fold the handle to glide it along the page without interruption.

The image is sharp. You have the choice of positive, negative or color contrasts as you prefer. What we really loved about the Looky is the special freeze function. With just a push of a (big) button you can freeze the text or image on the LCD screen. It’s like taking a photograph. We think it will help a lot when you’re trying to read a label in a store, or can’t quite see the detail on an item on the top shelf. We have a customer who weaves. She wants the Looky to “freeze” a portion of her work to be sure there are no mistakes.

This gem also comes with rechargeable AA batteries with the battery charger.

We just introduced the Looky and have already gotten rave reviews on it. Be sure to put this one on your list if you want to be out and about and need some extra help seeing the details!

Monday, December 17, 2007

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM CAPABILITIES!

We are in the home stretch now, heading fast into the opening of presents, singing and dancing, eating, and popping champagne. There is still a grinch or two at loose, especially at the mall and in traffic. For the most part, though, I like how most everyone you meet wishes you a happy something or other at this time of year. I like, too, watching people choose presents. I get a birds’ eye view of this distinctly human behavior owning a retail store.

Some come in on a mission. They know exactly what they want, go right to it, and take out their wallets. These folks usually have a list, and some of them have been making that list throughout the year. In fact, I recognized a few last week that had been in earlier in the year, commenting on something or other being a great idea for Christmas. Their resolve is palpable. No amount of tinsel or ribbon will draw them to anything else. “This is the perfect gift,” they say with satisfaction. I feel satisfied, too!

Others are definitely on the search for that unique gift, not yet found. They love a store like ours with all the nooks and crannies, unusual and practical things in every corner. I enjoy seeing someone linger over a thing, try it out, put it down, pick it up again, imagining, hoping to make the right choice. The other day I saw a young man in the vision area, comparing magnifiers and trying out the talking clocks. “I usually can’t find a thing for my Dad,” he told me. “But, this is great! It feels like Christmas to ME having this much choice for him, for a change.”

Giving is part of our makeup as humans. I remember being so moved by the aging parents of a dear friend years ago. When I visited for the holidays, the dad pulled me aside to tell me that he had just gone through all the cards he had given his wife over the years, and chose one in particular to give her again. “I just cannot get out on my own anymore,” he said. “So, I thought I would give her this one all over again. What do you think?” “I think you’re incredible!” And, even now, just remembering that conversation, I feel all warm and fuzzy. I think we are as compelled to give as we are to breathe.

And so we come to the close of another year, ending it on a generous note with each other. We thank you so much for your generosity and support of Capabilities this year. You have brought us much joy and satisfaction. We promise to continue bringing you great products, services and information in 2008.

Let us give you our gift for a 20% savings on one of your items by printing the coupon on our website (or mentioning it if you order online). If you’re local, you have the chance to win tickets to a performance of White Christmas at the Denver Center for Performing Arts on December 29 or introductory dance lessons at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Westminster. Just sign up for our online newsletter or email us your contact information and you’re eligible for the drawing on December 24th.

From all of us at Capabilities, may you enjoy the many celebrations of the season!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Enneagram

We introduced you to Inga in September when we told you about her foot reflexology sessions. She participated in our second anniversary events by offering free demos. We can attest to just how wonderful that experience was. It turns out Inga has many talents. She is also a certified trainer of the Enneagram of Personality Types, a modern tool with ancient roots, designed to help discover more about the self and others. Inga has written a blog this week to tell you more about the tool and about the five-week class she is offering at Capabilities beginning in January. Please check our Events schedule for details. You can call Inga at 303.423.7903 or email to ask questions or to sign up.

Hello Readers, my name is Inga and I would like to introduce you to your SELF. My workshops are geared toward that. And what is this crazy lady talking about, you may ask? I’m talking about YOU and this crazy mixed up world we live in.

Both as individuals and as a society, we tend to repeat the same unfulfilling patterns over and over again. Scan a history book – or review your own life history as objectively as you can – and you’ll see that this is true. If we just keep making the same mistakes, what’s the point of it all? Why can’t we change our lives so that we experience more joy, more love, and more fulfillment?

In this workshop we will be using the Enneagram System, a very old teaching used and taught both professionally and internationally. This teaching takes you on a journey of self, to find out who you are and how you got there, what issues mentally and emotionally that are connected to each Enneatype.

And because we will also explore the shadow side of ourselves, I will also be teaching you how to use EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) that can be used in so many ways we couldn’t count them all…hey, I couldn’t just leave you hanging there! EFT is an amazing tool the works quickly and effectively…you’ll have to find this out.

These classes, five in all, will be giving you so much information that if you haven’t expanded your self-realization by the time we are finished, then I haven’t done my job.
We will have FUN, we will be CHALLENGED and SURPRISED and we will GROW as human beings on this planet we call HOME.

This is an ideal experience for professionals, parents, caregivers, students, or just plain you.
It is my goal and passion to teach and pass this information onto as many people as I can, it changed my life! I would like to live in a happier and more caring world – wouldn’t you?
P.S. There will be a very nice prize for the first person to guess my Enneatype and explain why by the 3rd class... (friends and family excluded!)

Check out the workshop schedule for more information. You can call me at 303.423.7903 or email for more details.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Trying To Breathe

Do you know anyone with COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease? It’s caused primarily by smoking, although breathing in pollutants and other toxins in concentrated form can also cause the disease. People with COPD also usually have either chronic bronchitis or emphysema, or both. The disease occurs over time. At the onset, there might be coughing and some mucus. Over time, these symptoms worsen and the individual also experiences shortness of breath. Many must use portable oxygen to manage day-to-day living.

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. And, recently instances of women diagnosed with this disease exceeded the number of men diagnosed. There is generally no cure for COPD. There is focus on pharmacological solutions, including oxygen, to provide relief to the individual.

We see a number of folks with COPD who are looking for mobility and comfort. As the disease progresses, any physical exertion becomes very difficult. Fitting the individual for a scooter, for example, provides a means for him/her to get out and about, to continue engaging in activities outside the home. We have a few customers who have needed a power vehicle for inside the home as well. Just moving from the living room to the kitchen can become virtually impossible for those with advanced cases of COPD.

We find, too, that lift chairs and other lift mechanisms (e.g., stairlifts, tub lifts) provide needed assistance when chronic obstructive pulmonary disease worsens. Sometimes the exertion of standing from a sitting position can be enough to exhaust a person for hours. A reclining lift chair offers assistance by raising the individual to a near standing position.

The key, of course, is to work hard to avoid COPD in the first place. This is one of those illnesses in our culture that can be prevented, at least in many instances. If you smoke, try to get all the help you can to stop. If you live in an environment with second hand smoke, do what it takes to live somewhere else, or influence those in that environment to change their habits. If you are not sure whether your job is exposing you to unhealthy levels of pollutants or toxins, speak with the human resources department or someone outside the company who can help you identify more clearly what your risks are.

If you already have COPD, or suspect you have an early stage of a breathing disorder, see your doctor immediately. You may be able to make some changes to stop the progression of the disease. If you already have an advanced case of COPD, find the tools to help you stay involved and connected to life. Here’s where we can help at Capabilities. Contact us for more information on products or if you are looking for a space to hold a support group. Sometimes gathering with others in the same boat helps you figure out new ways to cope.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Santa Is Coming To Town

In fact, Santa has already stopped off at Capabilities. We have lots to choose from as you play Santa for those in your life. You might have noticed our Wish List feature. Here’s a way to tip off your loved ones about what you’d like to have from our huge selection of products for independence, mobility and comfort. We also have a gift registry if you’d prefer to email us, or drop by the store if you are in town and sign up.

It has been so great working with folks this holiday season as they search out that perfect something. Many who are newcomers to Capabilities are delighted to find such a diverse choice of products to choose from. They were expecting some of the traditional tools and aids to help those who are facing a challenge. What they did not expect to find are the games, books, lotions, teas, and unusual gift ideas, like the Book Peeramid, Buddha Board, Scrambles puzzles, Chillow, Hotflash! and so many other ideas. We just love helping people solve challenges, even if it’s the challenge of holiday shopping, which is something we all know about!

It’s a great time to visit our store or shop online. You can use the coupon in our newsletter or on our home page for a discount on most items.

Happy Holidays to you and yours! Thank you for shopping at Capabilities and supporting us in so many ways.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rocky Mountain Stroke Association Announces New Programs

As many of you know, we are big fans of Rocky Mountain Stroke Association. In addition to the already robust offering of programs they have in their line up, the new year holds even more. At the RMSA north metro Denver base in the community room at Capabilities you will find weekly Aphasia Support Groups led by Julie Harrington in addition to the weekly PT groups led by Michele Harrison. At 9 a.m. every Wednesday there will be individual speech assessment opportunities. Of great interest is the introduction of a music therapy program that will be held twice a month. The kickoff of this program is tentatively set for mid February. Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have questions or would like to chat with someone at RMSA, please call 303-730-8800.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Life Goes On

We are so happy to introduce you to Sherry Meiners. We met Sherry just a few months after we opened Capabilities. She became a big supporter fast. In fact, for a brief time Sherry worked for us. As you will learn from her blog, Sherry has Parkinson Disease. So, while Sherry worked hard and well for us and was a hit with our customers, she had to leave to take care of herself physically. We are delighted that the R&R have worked wonders for her. She looks great and continues to come into the store regularly and bring her wonderful energy and zest for life. Her blog reveals a lot about Sherry. Be sure to send us your thoughts about it. She also is pulling together a support group for Parkinson’s so please contact her a reply if you are interested. Her phone number is: 303-432-8981.

We will all be faced with challenges in our life. They may be physical, mental, financial or significant losses of family or friends. The one thing we can be sure of is that LIFE GOES ON with or without us.

My challenge came in the form of Parkinson’s Disease (PD). I was 52 and in the prime of my life. I was in great physical shape; had a rewarding job; a wonderful married life; a recently married daughter and a new son-in-law. LIFE WAS GOOD!

My greatest fear was confirmed on May 5, 1998. The moment I heard the doctor say “you have Parkinson’s Disease” everything started to spin in my head and all I could comprehend was life was never going to be “HAPPY” again.

The doctor did not paint a pretty picture about my future nor did she give me any sort of comfort or reassurance. Maybe she thought she was doing me a favor by giving me all the bad news right up front. Unfortunately several years earlier I had worked in the same building where the Parkinson’s Association was located. I remember thinking when I saw people coming there for meetings how brave they were and what an awful affliction!

Well here it is almost ten years later and LIFE GOES ON. I apologize if it sounds like I am making light of “life’s significant challenges”. I’m not, but there are a few things that I have learned over these 10 years. I would like to share my RULES OF SURVIVAL!

  • Allow yourself time to grieve over the loss of life as you have known it. All of a sudden a label has been placed on your head and the grief you feel is very real. This is an on going transition in your life. Every time you experience changes in your condition the same feeling of loss shows its ugly head. You take a deep breath and then LIFE GOES ON.
  • Become your own ADVOCATE! Learn everything you can about your illness. Make sure your information is from knowledgeable sources. People have good intentions when they share information but it may not be appropriate for your particular needs.
  • Select a family member or good friend that will also be your advocate. They will be of great comfort and help when you go to your doctor, and should you ever need to be hospitalized. When you are dealing with all the new information, new medications and emotional feelings it is difficult to remember everything that you were told.
  • Take charge of your life. Get to know your body. Your doctor only knows what you tell him/her. It is absolutely critical that you be an active participant in your medical care. Your doctor is a filter between you and the care he will recommend. Take time to write down your physical changes; questions about your treatment and care. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about personal changes like sexual, relationships, anger etc. (I must add that a lot of physicians are not comfortable talking about the emotional issues. It is very helpful to find a good therapist. This person can help you deal with these issues. I wish I had done it sooner).
  • Allow yourself to take care of you! Most of us go through life “taking care of everything but ourselves”. We don’t eat right or get enough sleep. We think the laundry must be done immediately; the grocery shopping is urgent, etc. The most difficult thing to learn about this time in your life is what your “limitations” are and how to accept a new “standard” in your life. This was a huge loss for me. I had never given any thought about not being able to do16 things in one day and still be able to entertain friends the same evening. Be prepared this was a tough one for me, but LIFE GOES ON!
  • Don’t put off doing the things you always said you would do later when you have the time or money. Of course there may be factors in your life that may make this more difficult. But I strongly encourage you “DO IT NOW”. Make plans for things to look forward to.
  • Stay interested in life and people. Take up new activities - painting, pottery or volunteering where you are able.
  • Take advantage of all the resources available. Many organization offer support groups, free medical equipment use, transportation, etc.
  • Work very hard at not letting your illness define who you are. It’s surprising but most other people still see you as the same person you were before. Maybe this is out of their own fear, but to them you are still YOU. Give it your best shot at being you with a few extra “bumps and bleeps”.
  • Whatever your Spiritual belief hold on to it. Find something that touches your soul and gives you peace and hope for the future.
We are all kindred spirits in this life. The last ten years have been good for me. I have two beautiful grandchildren; I took up painting and writing poetry; and did some pottery (not my best thing but fun). My wonderful husband and I took a year off and traveled the USA in a motorhome - what a blast! There have also been losses - my dear mother died; a dear cousin my age died of cancer. I heard about some high school mates that also made their transition. Just remember “Some days are diamonds and some days are stones”. Live in the “present moment”; laugh as much as possible; take care of yourself; appreciate and show gratitude to all those who love you.

LIFE GOES ON with or without you. What is your choice?

If you would be interested in being a member of a Parkinson’s Support Group
in the Westminster / Arvada area please contact me.

Sherry Meiners
303-432-8981

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Poetry Surprise

For those who don't know, we publish a Poetry Surprise in our newsletter each week.

This week’s Poem Pick features Wallace Stevens, insurance man, twentieth century poet. He worked at The Hartford Insurance Company in Hartford, CT. He would walk at lunch, gathering images and ideas for the poems he would write at the end of the day. I worked at The Travelers Insurance Company for a number of years in my early career and took great inspiration from Wallace Stevens, hoping my muse would visit once in while as I toiled over indemnities and coverage.

The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

Be sure to visit the poetry ring on our Web site. Start here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Wear Close: Ostomy Wear That Lets You Feel Attractive

As a young man and a newlywed, Tom Dunlap was confronted with a life-changing event at the ripe old age of 25. Just over a year after marrying, he was diagnosed with acute ulcerative colitis, a life threatening disease that required removal of a portion of his small intestine, leaving him with a stoma and an ostomy bag on his belly. He survived. He and his wife, Sue, addressed the many challenges facing them then, and since. Both committed to getting back to life as usual, they found ways to incorporate the new parts of him in most of their activities. They both struggled, though, with intimacy. How to be close and not have the ostomy appliance be the main event?

They both had a mission of finding the right clothing or covering that would help them both with the intimacy they cherished in their relationship. Tom tried everything that came onto the market, never fully satisfied that manufacturers were “getting it.” Of course, comfort is important. So is practicality when it comes to caring for an ostomy. But the number one issue that he and his peers confronted every day was how to feel attractive and desirable with a partner. It’s the great secret, he says, among ostomy wearers. Many won’t talk about it, but when he and Sue go on the road with Wear Close, the product they have created, the crowd opens up right away.

For years, Tom and Sue kept fiddling with their own ideas. One day, Wear Close was born. On one of their many traveling adventures, Tom found the perfect fabric. He sent it home and they made some prototypes. He tried them out. Sue says they sure had fun experimenting with just “how close” they could get without feeling intruded upon by the cover. They realized it was the first product that felt invisible to them.

One of my brothers died from colon cancer ten years ago. He was diagnosed too late, after the cancer had already metastasized, so he died within six months. The doctors did try surgery early in the diagnosis to see what they could remove before treating him with chemotherapy. They left him with a colostomy, a reality that my brother had great difficulties accepting. He worried all the time about the rustling sound of the bag against his skin, the potential for odor (which was never present, but he worried nonetheless), and the fact that his body was changed forever. I remember sitting with him at the hospital after the surgery as the nurse wheeled him into a conference room to watch a video, “Caring for Your Ostomy.” It was too soon. He looked out the window instead of at the video. He would not speak. He ignored it, hoping it would go away.

When I discovered Wear Close I wished so much that my brother could have tried it then. To have found something so unobtrusive to have bundled the bag in, holding it close against his skin, would have relieved him greatly in those days when he focused on “returning his life to normal.”

Wear Close comes in sizes (S, M, L,XL) in beige and black. The whole idea is to have it blend with skin tone. It’s soft and minimalist in its profile. The soft breathable elastic polymer fiber material stretches for comfort and a close fit. The patented construction techniques used allow for the entire garment to be manufactured with minimal stitching for a smooth finish. The waistband has a three-position adjustment allowing for a perfect personal fit. The user feels confident, comfortable, and attractive in all situations, especially intimate ones.

And, Wear Close is getting a lot of attention. Tom and Sue recently showed their product at the semi-annual trade show for medical equipment providers and suppliers and Wear Close was selected as one of the innovative new products of the year. We now have this product on display at our location in Westminster. You can see it and buy it here, too.

We featured this product in our new products showcase in September. Our “testers” found it unique and interesting, although we did not have anyone in the testing group at the time who actually has a stoma and wears an ostomy bag. If you are interested in learning more about Wear Close, or would like to give us your thoughts and impressions, please contact us or come by and visit. Take a closer look at this product and share your thoughts with us.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Birthday Countdown

A colleague of mine mentioned the other day that she was pondering “going blond.” “Have you ever considered this?” she asked me. Well, I like to think that my nearly white hair is really platinum instead of gray, so answered easily, “no.” After a bit more conversation she said a big birthday was approaching and she was sure this desire to fiddle a bit with nature had something to do with it.

I remembered birthdays past, especially the ones that I had to pause over a minute to let in the passing of years. I recall that 27 gave me chills for some reason. I breezed through 30, though, without missing a beat. The 40s brought mega-doses of joy and sorrow as they do for many in mid-life, and change, change, change. As I approached my 50th birthday (already a few years ago now), I became possessed with ways to celebrate that half-century mark. I wanted it, looked forward to it, told everyone. So, I planned a birthday countdown unlike no other up to that point in my life.

For the fifty days leading up to the day I planned something unique, special, unusual, and in some cases, usual, but too infrequent (like time with the grandkids). I had as much fun planning those days as I did enjoying them once they arrived. And so did everyone else in my life. It was a great thing to talk about at parties or over dinner with friends. Try it. Everyone has an idea of what to do. I added everything to my list, even the things I knew would not make it to the final 50. It’s fun to look back on some of those crazy ideas (like toilet papering the neighborhood, offered by an acquaintance who, like me, had never done this as a teenager and thought it was high time).

Three of my favorites from that list still live large in my memory. I rented a Jaguar for a weekend and drove through the mountains. I had always fantasized about this car. It was great. And, once I got it out of my system, I have not thought about owning once since. So, I got a double gift from that one. I also tried Dom Perignon for the first time on day 45. The best gift, however, without a doubt was signing up for an art class.

As a seventh-grader I had an experience that I have since learned was not that uncommon in my generation. I had a teacher who was a wonderful artist (or so it seemed to me). Her idea of art class was to draw elaborate scenes on the chalkboard and have us draw the same scene. One Friday afternoon we returned from lunch to find a most magnificent farm scene complete with horses, cows, barns, people. It was our job to recreate this scene in a 45 minute art period with no further instruction. I was already fairly intimidated by the whole art thing anyway and had just squeezed my way through other art days, but on this day, I felt my heart sink. I simply had no idea how to tackle this project, so I did what I knew and drew stick figures – stick horses, stick cows, stick people, a barn with four lines. When it was time to turn in our work, I tried sliding my paper to the bottom, but she saw me and pulled it out. Amazed, she held it out and said in an evil voice, “Well, look what we have here! Stick cows! Who on earth has ever heard of stick cows?” She and the class had a good laugh. I sunk deeply that day and never picked up a pencil or paint brush again.

And, so it was in the days before that birthday that I remembered how much I loved art. I had spent time in museums here and abroad, I had collected books of famous art, I loved doodling and playing with color. But that trauma of Friday afternoon art had cast an anchor inside me. What a fantastic thing it was to find so many options! The research gave me so much pleasure, I almost hated to make a decision. But, I settled on a basic painting class at the Denver Art Museum. How incredible it was to show up the first night and find paints and a paper and brushes that would be mine! I pulled out those early drawings earlier as I thought about writing this blog. What a wave of delight passed through me!

I went on to take a few more art classes, basic drawing and color. And, then, life got crazy and the years have passed. It was one of those decisions, though, that forever changed me. Who could have guessed that turning 50 is one of my most cherished memories! Bringing curiosity and a sense of adventure not only released the hurt and embarrassed seventh grader finally, but invited in skills and ideas I would not have guessed lived inside me. I can only imagine my brain got bigger that year!

So, I say to my friend whose birthday is creeping up, go blond for sure if you want to. And come up with dozens of other things you always wanted to do and start working that list. If you hurry, you can make a big dent by the actual day!

How do you feel about birthdays? Are there a couple that stand out for you as being turning points? Feel free to reminisce a bit here with us. And if you’ve got some ideas for how my friend can make the most of this particular birthday, post them here. I’ll be sure she gets them.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Grateful for Common Ground

At a time when divisions seem to be the rule in our culture, I find myself this Thanksgiving season thinking about how Capabilities has helped me focus on just how similar we all are. Yes, life comes at each of us differently, and we must never blur the marvelous qualities and talents that distinguish us as individuals; it is the richness of our differences that makes for such a curious and interesting life, without a doubt. I note, however, that as methods for communicating proliferate – talk radio, 24 hour cable news and talk shows, web logging, just to name a few of the more prominent means – the discourse seems to be rougher and rougher, the language parsing and pummeling, the sentiments expressed angry and demeaning. And all in the name of debate and dialogue.

Hmmm. What is this all about? I know we are a funny species, we humans. We love to find ways to disagree and prove our points. And debate, discussion, disagreement are critical to a free society. So, let’s not stop that. But what about adding some civility, politeness, listening to varied perspectives? And what would happen if we tried to find common ground occasionally when we discuss and debate our politics, our religions, our cultural and personal preferences? Could we find our way out of gridlock then? Could the essential changes that must happen actually begin?

All this musing lately led me to my own life, of course, as reflection always does. This is when it occurred to me just how even more wonderful the Capabilities experience is for me. I am so grateful for the chance to work with so many individuals and families, helping to explore solutions and alternatives to some of life’s hardest challenges. What I found myself focusing on this week was just how level the playing field is when it comes to our feelings about health and well-being, illness and injury, fear and anxiety, relief and respite.

I’m finding as I work with hundreds of people every month that the nearly universal reaction to illness and injury is the same, regardless of age, economics, ability levels, geography. Oh, surely, individuals express those emotions and reactions differently (but not so much, it turns out). In all cases the common ground is also the sacred ground of seeking a helping and friendly hand to face whatever it is we have to face. Common ground feels good to walk on. For those moments, we are all the same and it’s a fairly amazing sensation.

While it’s true that many of us who interact at the store won’t be friends or agree politically or share the same perspectives on many things, it feels good and honest to welcome everyone who comes into Capabilities, or contacts us by phone or the internet, with the same enthusiasm and gratitude that they found us. It feels good to listen for a change to someone else’s story. It feels good to try to think about ways of helping, regardless of whether it’s a product we sell, or a referral we can make, or a brainstorm we have just in that moment. It feels great when we do help. We are all the more appreciative when someone sends us a note or calls us later to confirm that what they got from us is working and has made all the difference.

As I look back over this year, there are so many individual stories I remember. I love knowing that for a few moments (and sometimes longer) I have been part of the fiber that joins families, of the worry that heaps on when something goes wrong, of the relief when there is a tool or a person or a place to go that will help. Thank goodness this life’s work causes me to listen more intently, to focus more specifically, to care more passionately. I appreciate, too, the mistakes and snafus of building a business. When these mistakes involve people and their comfort, I find the motivation to correct them is so powerful. It’s another place of commonality, facing mistakes and fixing them. There is not a one of us alive who has not felt that dread. And, the great relief of resolution when it’s done.

Thanks to each of you who have been a part of Capabilities this year. Pam and I have found common ground we won’t forget about for the rest of our lives. You have brought us more joy than we can express; you have sharpened us, tested us, believed in us beyond our wildest dreams. You have let us be part of some of the most difficult moments of your lives, trusted us to help you, and expressed your gratitude for having such a place.

We are ever mindful that Capabilities can only exist because of all of you. Thank you for being there! Thank you, too, for making our business even better with your suggestions and ideas. Thank you most of all for reminding us of just how much common ground there really is among us.

May you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ahhh, Chocolate!

If you were not at our Chocolate Tasting event last week, too bad for you! What a great – and delicious – time we had with Julie Pech, author of The Chocolate Therapist. Julie spoke about her journey of finding the right combination of topics for her book, as she transitioned from one career to another. Combining her background in psychology with her interests in travel and finally with one of the things she loved best, chocolate, ended up being the magic formula for her. She researched and traveled over a period of 18 months to be sure she understood everything there is to know about chocolate. And we were convinced!

Her book focuses each chapter on a particular health area, menopause, headaches, depression, high blood sugar to name just a few. She then “prescribes” the type of chocolate that might best work for that condition in the proper amounts. The secret, of course, is dark chocolate. The darker, the better, Julie says. In fact, she uses her own story to explain how her unhealthy cravings and habits for chocolate disappeared once she began eating small amounts of organic dark chocolate on a daily basis. She lost weight, got more energy and stopped having headaches. She gets her few ounces of chocolate in the mornings, she explained, so she can ride the healthful benefits all day. I was most struck by the fact that dark chocolate is higher in antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables. How satisfying a victory is that over all those fights you had about eating your vegetables?

She brought about 10 different types of chocolate for sampling, the essential difference among them the content level of cacao powder in each. At one point in the evening she asked us to choose one or two nibs for sampling. “Pop one in your mouth, but do not swallow until I tell you,” she directed. As with many of life’s pleasures, slowing down to enjoy them truly does enhance the satisfaction. So it was with this exercise. Holding that small bit of dark chocolate, letting it melt naturally, swirling the liquid chocolate around, having each taste bud react to the sweetness and bitterness was truly a wonderful treat. Experimenting with the different types provoked interesting conversation, too. We tried chocolate from Ecuador, Venezuela, Central America. Some was naturally rich with the taste of raspberries, others with vanilla. All of it was natural and organic... and yummy!

Just so you won’t feel too badly about missing this event, we have Gift Sets available. They include a signed copy of Julie’s book and three delicious samples of chocolate. This is a perfect host or hostess gift during this holiday season, or for that special someone who has everything. Or, what about a treat for you? It’s the perfect way to start the healthy plan you were planning for the New Year anyway. You can get an early start and enjoy the holidays, too. You can purchase her book, The Chocolate Therapist, separately, too.

See some photos of the fun we were having at this event. Check our Events section for more great things to do at Capabilities. Here’s to your health!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Titanic Revisited

We wrote a blog this summer about the exhibit of Titanic artifacts currently on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. We had the chance to go back again this week with the great folks from the Foundation Fighting Blindness. As always, I am so grateful for the many affiliations Pam and I have through our business. I noticed how dimly lit most of the exhibit is, much of it on purpose, as the curator tries to recreate the experience of being on the ship in 1912. All senses are heightened, I believe, when one of them is challenged. I noticed during this visit how much I heard the sounds of the exhibit, the auditory clues that add to the experience – the Ragtime piano, the clanking of dishes, the roar of the coal-fired engines as we make our way to the boiler room. I had completely missed these sounds on my first visit.

This time, too, I paid more attention to the stories of so many of the 2,200 people who were on the Titanic for its maiden voyage. Each visitor gets a boarding pass with information about an actual passenger. I held the boarding pass for a young Finnish woman. She and her husband booked passage in third class, the only way they could afford the journey away from Finland which at the time was part of the Russian empire. Her husband was to have been drafted into the Russian army and sent to war. They escaped for the American Dream. She survived. He did not.

And so it was for everyone on that boat. Only 707 survived. The last of the survivors, Elisabeth Dean, just died a week or so ago. She had been only two months old when the ship went down. One fellow was so unhappy that he had to leave on the Titanic when he had thought he had booked a later trip that he wrote a friend that he would rather see this ship sink to the bottom of the ocean! Imagining these people in their everyday lives has caused me since to spend a bit more time thinking about the idea of “fate” or “destiny,” as some might call it. Are we inevitably always where we are supposed to be? And is it in that place that we exercise our will and create meaning? The line seems so fine between belief in our ability to make our own destiny and the mystery of being in the right (or wrong) place at the exact time history is made. Did the ones who chose to stay on board the Titanic have more of a say in making their own fate? Did the survivors escape a destiny meant for them, too? Or were they meant to survive all along?

We don’t ever know. It’s all about belief in the end, I guess. And so, as I scoured the huge wall of names at the end of the exhibit, looking for Elin’s name, my name while I walked through the Titanic, I felt a shudder of relief when I saw “myself” listed under “Third Class Survivors.” And, a quiet moment as I noted “my” husband’s name under “Third Class Lost.” I wonder what Elin believed as she floated away from the final “great silence” that was left when the Titanic slipped below the waves. And, later, when it was time to keep on living.

If you are in the Denver Metro area and have not yet taken a moment to visit the exhibit, we think it’s worth the couple of hours’ investment. And, if it comes on tour to your city, don’t miss the chance to be touched in a very personal way by this amazing part of American history. If you have visited the exhibit and have your own reflections, please share them with us and our readers.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Clothesline Comeback

I was delighted recently as I walked through the neighborhood to see clothes flapping in the backyard of a young couple with children. The wind was chilly; I could almost feel the scratchy texture of the big towels nearly dry at day’s end. And the scent, fresh, cold, the perfect pitch of fragrance impossible to replicate. You don’t know when laundry day is for most of us these days, unless you see the blow of dryer air behind the fence.

Like most girls of my time, I learned about laundry at my mother’s heels, handing her the clothespins. We first only had the push type with the tiny round head. I don’t remember how it happened, but the clothespin with the spring appeared, finally replacing those early versions. Mom liked the spring-loaded ones a lot, she told me. “They don’t slip as much in a big wind.”

We carried the laundry in a big basket up the basement stairs, then, and into the yard. Even in winter, my mother made the trek, shoveling a small path first, then tamping down the snow with her rubber boots as she made her way left to right along the stretch of rope strung from the house to the tall post of the chain link fence. As I got older, I would sometimes relieve her. But she worked the clothesline until well into her 80s. She only used the dryer my brother bought her on bad weather days and for towels. She did not mind giving up the scratchiness of line-dried towels.

After I left home to pursue my career and life, I always loved so many things about going home for visits. The clothes on the line are among those memories I cherish. Slipping into sheets just washed and dried outside, I could drift off to sleep feeling as safe and sound as I had all those years growing up. I’d get one final treat when I returned from one of these visits. As I unpacked my suitcase, that unforgettable scent would burst out from my own clothes that my mother had always washed just before I left.

With all this recent musing, imagine my surprise just last week when I saw a story in the newspaper about a return to clotheslines. With a focus on being “green,” many young folks are rethinking our modern dependence on dryers. Clotheslines are popping up across America again. Some people are running into trouble with their Home Owners’ Associations, though, which don’t permit anything “unsightly” on their properties. Clotheslines with their revealing contents don’t fit the image of these neighborhoods. The bylaws don’t approve of knowing when your neighbor’s wash day is. But discussions are underway, the article said, challenging these bylaws even in some of the fanciest areas of town.

Have you seen any clothes flapping on a line lately? Do you remember wash day and that inimitable fragrance? If this stirs some memories, share them here.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

And The Music Never Ends...

Oliver Sacks, the famous neurologist who has studied the mysterious ways of the brain and their effects on individuals in The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and The Awakening (later made into a movie staring Robin Williams and Robert DeNiro), has a new book, Musicophilia. He explores his own fascination with music, how the brain makes and understands music, and, of course, the aberrations that can occur in the brain involving music.

Some of more astonishing facts he outlines in the book include the following:
  • We all have absolute or perfect pitch the first year of life.
  • Twenty to thirty parts of the brain are involved in making and processing music, making music a more complex function than language in the brain.
  • The brains of musicians are more distinct (and bigger in certain parts) than with any other group, including artists and scientists.
  • The anatomy of the brain changes even after a short period of what are called “hand practices” in the study of music.
  • Only humans have in an innate sense of rhythm demonstrated by swaying and keeping of tempo, even by very young children.
I was most struck by his analysis of a phenomenon that affected my own mother in her later years, the repetition of songs playing inside the brain, making it seem for all the world to the individual as if s/he is actually hearing music. He distinguishes these “musical hallucinations” clearly from “vocal hallucinations,” hearing voices in one’s head, which he says is often a sign of mental illness. Musical hallucinations, however, are often temporary and occur often in someone who is deaf or is becoming deaf. Sacks’ mother experienced several episodes when she was 75. My mother was just around 80 when she spoke of hearing “Twinkle, twinkle little star” and several other childhood songs. Work with a neurologist isolated some scar tissue from a TIA, or mini-stroke as they are sometimes called, leaning on one of the auditory centers in the brain. Medication alleviated the sounds, although the dosage ultimately created other issues for her. Sacks says that there is still plenty of research to do on musical hallucinations as he continues to investigate the brain’s plasticity and many mysteries.

We write a lot about the brain. We also offer a new brain tip every week. If you have not yet taken a close look at the Brain Fitness Program, please note that we are offering a free demonstration of the program on December 6 in our community room at Capabilities flagship store in Westminster, Colorado. We are doing it twice, once at 1:30 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m. so you can choose the best time for yourself. For more details and to RSVP, see our Events page. You can also make an appointment with us for a personal test drive of the program if the date and time does not work for you.

For the music lover in you, check out Songs of Faith, a collection by Denver local, Dawn Wooderson. With a Ph.D. in Music, Dawn undertook as one of her many projects, the transcription of classic hymns in keys more suited to the aging voice. Her work with senior populations convinced her that the outcome would be worthwhile and it is. So many of us grew up on traditional hymns so they are etched in our brains. However, as we age, so, too, do our vocal chords, making it virtually impossible to reach some of those high notes. With Dawn’s transcriptions you can sing along easily and happily without screeching. Dawn periodically offers seminars and sing-a-longs at Capabilities. We’ll be sure to let you know when she is on the calendar again in 2008.

See our Poem Pick this week, too, for a poetic rendition of music by the 19th century French poet, Charles Baudelaire.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Taking Care of the Caregiver

In the past week and a half I have had the opportunity to be part of several events honoring caregivers. It’s a fairly new phenomenon, focusing on the caregiver. For eons caregiving has just happened as part of familial responsibilities, friendship or obligation. And if the caregiver was lucky enough to have a loving and caring circle around him or her, all the better. Now, it is more frequent that caregivers can find comfort and solace at conferences focusing on the caregiver, pampering events, or socials designed to bring caregivers together to share their stories, get some attention, and find additional resources to help fortify them for the hard work ahead.

One of the events was a conference sponsored by Grupo VIDA, an organization for families of disabled children. This was their tenth year honoring families and caregivers. They ask participants to leave their children with other caregivers for the weekend, so they can attend sessions, have good food, and dance. This organization targets Spanish-speaking families.

I’ve described this feeling before, I know, but I am always surprised and thrilled when I realize that what we are doing at Capabilities reaches deeply into the lives of so many, bringing ideas, solutions, and comfort. I gave a presentation on our theme, Be Unlimited, reviewing products and services for both the disabled individual and the caregiver. The two-pronged approach, many told me later, was unique, combining valuable information on products for their children, and ideas and reminders about taking care of themselves, too. Kudos to Grupo VIDA for this annual conference that brings together families, offering rejuvenation and renewal. It was clear to me how valuable a resource they are to so many members of our Colorado community, as people came from all corners of the state to spend the weekend.

Earlier in the week, I participated in the Caregivers’ Brunch co-sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association. Caregivers sat on a panel and shared some aspect of the caregiving experience with the audience, comprised of dozens of people caring for loved ones, parents, siblings, children. One spoke about how difficult it was to accept the fact that her husband had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 60. It had been seven years and she said that she still struggles with the acceptance part. She said a book, “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, offered her some of the most powerful tools to cope. She said by focusing on the moment she is in, she can often find the peace and joy that eludes her when she looks ahead or back on the past seven years. She also shared some of the practical things she does to help ward off depression, including taking St. John’s Wort, a natural supplement, instead of antidepressants, which affected her poorly when she first took them. She also writes, by profession and as a means of chronicling her journey through this most difficult of roles, caregiver.

Another panelist, a mother of a 10-year old boy, Jacob, who suffered a significant trauma at birth and requires complete care. She created an anagram of ideas, using each letter of CAREGIVING to highlight a trait or message she finds useful. I was struck, for example, by her choice of “celebration” for the letter C. She said that initially she had forgotten to celebrate anything, so despairing was she of Jacob’s condition. Now she makes a point of celebrating even the tiniest of his movements, his recognition of a color or a shape, getting through the morning rituals that take up to two hours to prepare him for school. I was also moved by her choice for R, respect. She spoke about how hard it is to make choices for someone who cannot communicate, being the voice for someone else. So, she focuses on trying to imagine being him, wondering what goes on inside him and how he might react to the choices and voice she gives to him on so many issues. It’s one of her biggest challenges, she admitted. I also liked E, extreme. Not unlike extreme sports, extreme caregiving requires iron will, training and persistence. This alphabet approach worked, I thought, offering small meditations of sorts on the many qualities, challenges and aspects of caregiving that resonate for those who offer so much of themselves in the care of others.

I found myself thinking about the last six weeks of my brother’s life when I stayed at home and cared for him. During some of the more challenging times towards the end, I remember feeling as close to crazy as I had ever experienced (or have experienced since). The lack of sleep, exercise and regular meals wore on me. The anxiety about his impending death – would I actually be at his side when he passed as I wanted to be, could I face the emptiness of that moment when it actually arrived, what about my mother for whom he had been primary caregiver for years – grew as each day passed. I wanted to meet every need and yet he was slipping away, fear often in his eyes, as he reached and tried to get out of bed. I cracked one day. I just cried and cried, then I slept for hours, awaking in a fit of worry that he had died without me holding his hand. There were more days to come, though. I had moved through that worst day relatively intact, ready for more. My brother died two days before Christmas with many of us in the family at his side, holding him, easing him into whatever is next.

If you are one of the 15 million in this country who are caregivers, please share your caregiving story. As I participated in these recent events, I realized again the power of telling stories and uncovering common experiences. I witnessed how important it is to be able to recognize one’s self in someone else, to feel a sense of camaraderie in the toughest profession around, and to get ideas when it seems as if you’ve run dry of your own. Send us your questions, too, and your inquiries about products and services you know would help if only you could find them.

Read more in a previous blog on the Caregiving Conundrum.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

More on Sleep

Some months ago we did a series of blogs on sleep. It’s a topic so rich, you can hardly pick up a magazine or newspaper these days without reading about some other study or thoughts on the matter. And with clocks “falling” back this past weekend, I know many of us used that extra hour to catch up on some sleep.

Ralph Downey III, chief of sleep medicine at Loma Linda University in California (pictured right in an interview on campus) writes about sleep deprivation and its ill effects on Americans. He suggested in an article recently that it’s a good idea to use that hour to “pay off your sleep debt.” He describes sleep debt as the difference between our pure physical need for sleep and the actual amount of sleep we get. You know if you are among the sleep impoverished. But, he says, many are and don’t realize it.

We’ve written here before about the toll lack of sleep creates, including grumpiness. Did you know that more and more studies are demonstrating that sleep deprivation also contributes to obesity? The body loses its ability to metabolize accurately when there is chronic lack of sleep. Research has also uncovered a greater risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease among those who do not sleep well.

Developing healthy rituals during the day, and calming rituals at night can contribute to better sleep habits. Try a soothing bath with Nuwati Bath Salts or Bath Bags. I have also discovered that a foot massage early in the evening contributes greatly to relaxation and falling asleep more easily. I am truly enjoying Caren Foot Treatment. And it comes in delicious fragrances or fragrance free. Lately, I prefer the original Caren in blue packaging. If you are in town, stop by and try it. These lotions make for wonderful gifts, too, now that we (well, some of us) are kicking into holiday mode.

Dreams, too, continue to capture the imagination of writers. Robert Moss, author of “The Three ‘Only’ Things: Tapping the Power of Dreams, Coincidence & Imagination,” posits that dreams do provide us with material to sort through things. Using our dreams to overlay on the real day-to-day issues and questions we grapple with, he says, gives us yet another set of tools for solving problems and finding alternatives. He offers three ways to use our dreams. “Record your dreams,” he says. Take a few minutes to jot down key themes or images in the morning, or feelings and thoughts if you cannot actually remember your dreams. He also suggests finding a “dream friend.” This is someone who is open and who will consider working through the dream with you without imposing his or her own life onto the dream. Offering ways to consider the dream, though, is a great way for you both to bring the imagery to life. You can then listen to his or her dreams, too. Thirdly, Mr. Moss suggests taking action. Think of practical steps, he insists, on bringing your dreams to life, especially those that seem to be pointing in certain directions.

How are you sleeping lately? And do you remember your dreams? Share your thoughts about sleep and dreaming, along with helpful remedies for sleep difficulties here.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Algae for Your Brain

Yummy! That sounds about as good as eating liver and organ meats to me. And why would anyone want to eat algae anyway? It turns out that it’s algae that makes fish such a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, building blocks of the brain. Fish eat algae and bigger fish eat smaller fish and on it goes until there are abundant levels of these fatty acids in many kinds of fish. The gottcha is, however, that there is also a fair amount of contamination in many of the fish with high levels of omega-3s. We have all been sufficiently warned about mercury levels in swordfish and shark, for example.

So, an innovative U.S. company, The Martek Biosciences Corporation, has taken on the task of manufacturing algae! How’s that for an idea! Their senior scientist, J. Casey Lippmeier (definitely not pictured right), said in an interview on NPR this week that they were impressed by the studies a few years ago of how much improvement there was in brain development of children on formula with added DHA, one of the omega-3s. Previously, formula-fed babies always tested slightly lower in brain function and development than breast-fed babies. This finding motivated scientists to work on producing algae in laboratories as way to avoid the contamination worry of harvesting omega-3 fats from fish. Their success is admirable. They are now helping fortify foods of all kinds with the addition of their product.

I just love how creative we all can be. This is a story worth reading more about. You can go to npr.org for the whole story and for links to other research on omega-3 fatty acids and their positive impact on health. The good news is that taking omega-3 supplements seems to have similar effects. The omega-3 is metabolized the same way with supplements as with foods that contain them. Or so the early research seems to be saying. As always, you should talk with people you trust, including your doctor, before making any big dramatic changes to your diet or lifestyle that could impact your health.

I’m for anything that helps with brain fitness, as you know. We put together a brain fact this week that highlights just how helpful omega-3 fatty acids are on brain health. Be sure to also check out Brain Fitness, the software we write so much about and sell at Capabilities. The popularity of the program is growing daily. We are even working with a number of local organizations who are investigating how they can use the Brain Fitness program in the communities they oversee. Contact us if you would like more information about considering implementing the program at your retirement community, library, community center or other organization.

And let us know what you are doing to keep your brain healthy. Post your thoughts here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What Do You Believe?

Did you hear about the Associated Press study done recently? Over a third of those interviewed said they believe in ghosts. And one in four says they actually believe they have seen a ghost. Maybe it’s just that time of year, with Halloween here and all. Or, maybe it’s that the human need to believe in things beyond what we can see and understand is so powerful, we’ll reach into the supernatural to satisfy that craving.

I listen to National Public Radio a fair amount. I am struck by a series called, “This I Believe. “ It is based on a 1950s radio program inspired by Edward R. Morrow whose own intense belief in the power of the freedom of speech pushed him into the limelight during that difficult period of McCarthyism, racism, and the specter of atomic war hung heavy on the nation.

The series host, Jay Allison (pictured right), and producer, Dan Gediman, draw parallels between those years and now. They note that we are not listening well to each other; in some cases, not at all. Our times are complex and require true dialogue. Their goal: “A public dialogue about belief…one essay at a time.” Anyone can submit a 350 -500 word essay. They read them all and post all of them on their website, thisibelieve.org. They choose several per week to air on various NPR shows. It’s remarkable to me how diverse, funny, poignant, terrifying, satisfying are our beliefs. Every time I hear one, I find myself musing about beliefs – my own, yours, the ones we believe together.

What draws the line between belief and hope, I wonder some days. When do we first believe? Is it simply part of being human, an instinct of sorts, or do we learn how to believe from those around us? How many of us express our beliefs through the lens of religion or spirituality? How many through the grit of the every day? Do beliefs change? What separates believers from non-believers? Can anyone be either all the time?

If you take a tour through some of the essays, or spend a day listening to your co-workers or family members, or watch the World Series, you see it, you feel it. (I was so taken with the faces of fans at Coors Field on Sunday as they continued to believe, to hope, to will a win for their team. Eyes closed or open, hands clasped or flailing, voices hushed or shouting. It was all about believing right up until the last swing of that bat. And when spring comes, there’ll be plenty more again!)

Belief is as much a part of who we are as the color of our eyes, the food we eat, the goals we set. The line is thin, I think, between believing and hoping. It might be an academic question, of course. But, we’ve all met someone who seemingly has neither. And recognize instantly, one who has plenty of both.

One of the “This I Believe” essayists, James Sheehan, firmly exclaims: “I believe in barbeque!”

So, when I read that a 33% of Americans believe in ghosts, I smile. That’s it! We are compelled to believe. It’s in our human code. This I believe!

What do you believe? Give us your comments and musings, especially if you believe in ghosts.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Parkinson Disease: The Basics and Beyond

Parkinson Disease (PD) is a brain disorder. It affects roughly 1.5 million Americans, with 60,000 new cases diagnosed every year. It affects men and women almost equally, and appears most commonly after the age of 65, although 15% of cases are diagnosed in those under age 50.
When 80% of certain neurons in the brain (substantia nigra) die, symptoms of PD appear. These particular neurons are responsible for the creation of the neurotransmitter called dopamine, which allows for the smooth movement and coordinated functions of the body’s muscles. The primary symptoms, tremors and shaking, slowness of movement, stiffness and difficulty with balance, are present in nearly all who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Other signs may include stiff and cramped handwriting, expressionless facial appearance, softness of speech, shuffling gait and depression.

Diagnosing this disease is extremely difficult as there are no exact tests yet that can determine whether someone actually has the disease. It is more a process of elimination. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should consult a neurologist who can order the battery of tests necessary to discover what is going on. I know of several individuals who worked over the period of a couple of years with their neurologists trying to determine whether they were suffering from Parkinson Disease of something else.

Treatments almost always include taking some form of dopamine which, especially in early stages, eases the tremors, stiffening and walking difficulties. Over time, as more of the diseased neurons die, the effects of PD grow worse. Within the last few years an approach including brain surgery has become a salvation for some patients with this condition. It is not a cure, but does relieve some of the more severe effects for a period of time. The surgery is not for everyone, of course, and is usually not even considered unless all regimes with medication fail. I have an acquaintance who had the surgery a number of years ago, first on one side of his brain, then on the other. His symptoms diminished for many years. When I last saw him, however, he was experiencing a return of the tremors, stiffening and difficulty speaking and walking. He said he had no regrets, though, about having had the surgery when it first became available. It gave him a number of nearly symptom-free years that he enjoyed immensely. His spirits are good and he continues to lead a very productive life.

One of the many demanding challenges of PD involves walking. Often an individual will “freeze” when s/he comes to a curb, threshold or some other change in the walking surface. The brain recognizes this as a change, but cannot adapt the gait to it, so the legs and feet stop and cannot get moving easily again. While it has long been known that shining a light on the area just ahead of the feet can stimulate the brain to cause movement again, it’s the more recent introduction of the Laser Cane and Laser Light Walker introduced by U-Step a few years ago.

The Laser Cane is a bronze adjustable cane that looks for all the world like an ordinary cane. It has a small button that activates a red laser beam of light across the front of the cane when activated. Easy to use, this cane offers the user a handy and seamless way to project the beam of light necessary when episodes of freezing occur. It’s a good companion for those who suffer from PD, ALS and other diseases of the neurological system.

The Laser Light Walker has an additional feature of locking brakes that must be released by the individual before it moves. This gives extra security that the walker will not get away from the user. It only moves when s/he is ready to move. It has the easy to use button that engages the laser beam when the user needs it. It can be easily turned off when not needed. Its U-shaped base provides more security and as a result testing with the product reveal that most users can move three to four times faster with this walker than with traditional walkers. This walker also has a tighter turning radius, and at only 22 inches wide, it maneuvers easily through traditional doorways.

Actor Michael J. Fox brought attention to PD when he was diagnosed in 1991. In 1998 he revealed his disease to the public and has become one of the great champions for research. He founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation which focuses on research and support for those with the disease and their caregivers.

One of our colleagues and customers, Nick Peterson, has lived with Parkinson Disease since 1975 when he was 25 years old. Nick’s energy, liveliness and enthusiasm for life make him an inspiration to everyone. Among his many talents, Nick speaks nationally. His Colorado company, Shaky Speakers Presentations, sends him around the country with his inspirational and motivational messages. You can contact Nick at 888-757-7712 for more information about his presentations.

Do you have Parkinson Disease or know someone who does? We are always on the search of “people in the know” to give us first person accounts of experiences, treatments, tools that you find useful. Share your experiences here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Dance, Dance, Dance

“Dance till the stars come down from the rafters.
Dance, Dance, Dance, till you drop.” W. H. Auden

I have an old, but very dear memory of a September Sunday in Paris, crossing the Pont Neuf, shadows long with the day’s end near. As I approached the end of the bridge nearest to the Left Bank, I heard music and saw a crowd gathering. A young, sexy couple in black, approached the crowd smiling. Suddenly, it was all tango, legs long and hair loose. I could not believe my eyes. Breathless with excitement, I pushed closer and watched this daring dance on the Pont Neuf at sunset in Paris. When they finished the crowd cheered. Encore, we begged. The couple bowed, smiled, waved goodbye and, strolled off. Many of us stayed together for a while buzzing about the spontaneity of it all, the passion, the beauty. Some rubbed their eyes, wondering if the whole scene had actually happened. It has stayed with me for years and years.

There is evidence of dance on the walls of prehistoric caves. Figures in movement, repetitions, rituals. And they say kids dance before they walk and until they learn that everything is not music. We are meant to move, we are meant to dance, I think. My brother met his wife while teaching dance at Arthur Murray Studios in the late 50s. Our family watched, mesmerized, as they took to the floor at every gathering, liquid, silky, saying things with the samba and cha-cha that no one would ever say out loud. And how my mother could dance! Even into her 80s she would join a line dance or accept the invitation of a stranger to move onto the dance floor. It’s a theme that runs through my family and my life. I came of age, though, just as dancing became an individual kind of thing, when young people would flock onto a floor with or without a partner and wiggle, bump, grind into the wee hours of the morning. If there was any slow dancing, it was simply two bodies hugging each other, moving in circles. But it was fine. It did whatever it was supposed to do at the time – create closeness, establish rituals, define a kind of community.

I heard an interview the other day with the lead dancers of Dancing with the Stars. Did you know that this “reality” show is among the most watched on television these days? The premise is that stars and celebrities of all kinds compete with each other by dancing. Once chosen for the show the individual has three days to practice with the professional lead dancer in choreographed programs. They appear in front of an audience and the judging begins. The television audience participates in the judging, too. There are elimination rounds over a period of a week or two. (I have never seen the show, so I’m piecing what I’ve read and heard about it together). These two dancers spoke about how challenging it is to teach someone to dance traditional and formal moves in so short a time. They love it, they say, because they witness how many of these stars, so comfortable in their usual forms of celebrity, struggle at first with their discomfort dancing, then melt into the fun of moving with discipline and flair. The interviewer asked if there were a story of failure, of someone who simply could not do it in the end. “Never, not ever!” they chimed at the same time.

Miss Wheelchair Colorado 2000 is a dancer and actress. I remember being moved watching her and an ambulatory partner dance in a parking lot, celebrating her victorious reign. And at Pam’s birthday party two years ago, a friend with MS, confined to a power chair, took the hand of another and rocked the night away. She said moving to a beat feels so wonderful, so liberating!

We all know that dancing is good for us besides. Did you know you can burn hundreds of calories dancing even just for 60 minutes? And learning the patterns of ballroom and formal dances does wonders for your brain fitness. The camaraderie and enjoyment of dancing contribute to forming and strengthening social networks and community, which recent studies show help ward off depression and the ill effects of aging.

And yet, in spite of all these positive outcomes, it’s another one of those things that people tend to leave behind, feeling self-conscious, foolish or not so nimble anymore. How about declaring a day of dance, especially if you haven’t danced in a while? Or, a day to watch someone else dancing, at least? Tune in to that crazy TV show, or sign up for dance lessons at the local Fred Astaire Studio. Let your children or grandchildren talk you into a few go rounds of Ring Around the Rosey. Invent some new steps. “Dance till the stars come down from the rafters. Dance, dance, dance till you drop.”

Do you dance? Tell us your dancing story.

Monday, October 22, 2007

EasyPivot Patient Lift

If you are a caregiver for someone who cannot stand or pivot from one place to another, you know how difficult it is. It is literally backbreaking work, not to mention extremely uncomfortable and sometimes painful for the individual under your care. In hospitals or other medical facilities, there are often three people or more who lift and move patients. This is just not possible when someone goes home to continue rehabilitation. Thankfully with transfer boards and the array of lifting mechanisms now available to everyone, not just health care professionals, moving individuals from place to place is more possible. However, for some the use of a traditional transfer board or sling still does not create the right conditions.

In 1973, Joel Lerich, a mechanical engineer, had a life-changing car accident, leaving him a quadriplegic. Joel did master most daily tasks again after months of rehabilitation, except transferring from place to place. But, he never felt stable or safe in a traditional patient lift sling or on a transfer board. He was acutely aware, too, of the impact on his wife who was his primary caregiver. So with his mechanical engineering mind, Joel created the EasyPivot, a streamlined machine designed for safe, efficient transfers. With this machine neither the size, strength or agility of the caregiver or patient are a factor.

The EasyPivot pulls the individual forward into a leaning position instead of suspending the person from the back with the use of a sling. With a variety of models to suit any number of individuals and their lifestyles, the EasyPivot is a great solution for the single caregiver situation. At our New Product Showcase event many of our testers tried this incredible machine, in some cases agreeing to be the “patient” and in others the “caregiver.” While trying anything new for the first time is sometimes unsettling, it was great to see the curiosity and the willingness to truly test these products. See Kristy, a product tester, and Ed Kalin, the Rand-Scot representative using the EasyPivot below.

Take a closer look at the EasyPivot here or stop by Capabilities for a demo.

Sign up to volunteer as a product tester for future New Product Showcases. We’ll be doing another one in the Spring of 2008!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Featured Product: The Colorado Cycle by Rand-Scot

We mentioned our wonderful New Products Showcase a few weeks ago. We continue to reap the benefits of that event as we take the suggestions of our product testers and gather more feedback from customers every day. We’ve had the Colorado Cycle on our showroom floor for a few weeks and it has captured some attention. Al DeGraff, a C-5/6 quadriplegic, developed the first Saratoga Cycle in 1987. He says this invention helped keep him alive, ensuring movement and activity at a time when the array of rehabilitation was still in its infancy. The company, Rand-Scot, has gone on to enhance the product, make several models based on need, and has introduced other products designed to help those with disabilities.

The Colorado Cycle is a bi-directional hand cycle ideal for home use. It sits on a table and allows for adjustable levels of tension depending on the user. You put the pulse sensor on your earlobe to track cardio levels, and off you go. Well, figuratively. It’s a stationary cycle, of course. Their sturdy steel welded table that adjusts in height to fit wheelchairs and body types is sold separately. Stop by our showroom to see this marvelous tool. We can help you decide if it’s the right tool for you. It’s great for cross-training or doing moderate to heavy aerobics. You control the tension, so it’s great for those just trying to get a program started, too. It tracks distance, time, sped, calories and pulse. What we and our product testers like especially is that there is a wide variety of handgrips available to accommodate various disabilities, allowing you to be comfortable. Let’s face it, we are usually more motivated to stick with an exercise regimen when it is comfortable for us and works with who we are! You can exercise from a wheelchair or a straight-backed chair. It is also the lowest price cycle in the Rand-Scot collection. Take a look at this product here or stop by the store for a demo.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Life is for the Goal-Oriented... Or So It Seems

I recently read about a study at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, co-authored by Robert Wilson (pictured right) that examine the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease through a slightly different lens. While much of the research on Alzheimer’s Disease has looked at genetics and general brain fitness, Dr. Wilson’s work specifically highlighted the role of “the purposeful personality.” His findings suggest that those who view themselves as self-disciplined achievers have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s than people who are less goal-oriented. The link, he explains, may be that “a purposeful personality somehow protects the brain, perhaps by increasing neural connections that can act as a reserve against mental decline.” You might wonder how scientists like Dr. Wilson do this research. They actually examine the brains of individuals after their deaths. In this case, the scientists looked at the brains of those who had been identified (or self-identified) as goal-oriented, purposeful individuals. Surprisingly, in many cases they found lesions that would have otherwise qualified as acceptable criteria for Alzheimer’s, but these individuals showed no signs of dementia before their deaths. “This adds to our knowledge that lifestyle, personality, how we think, feel and behave are very importantly tied up with risk for this terrible illness,” Wilson said. “It may suggest new ideas for trying to delay the onset of this illness.” These findings were published in a recent Archives of General Pyschiatry.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since reading the article a few weeks ago. Aren’t we all goal-oriented? I’ve been wondering and asking folks this question. I suppose I have known some people whose qualities would not include self-disciplined, purposeful or goal-driven, although they have gotten along just fine in their careers and life in general. So, what is it that sparks drive and purpose? Are we born with these qualities, do we cultivate them through experience, can we begin to develop conscientiousness later on in life if it’s not been a key motivator for us previously? As I watch my grandchildren, it’s impossible for me to imagine that we are not born with a sense of drive and purpose. Each one of them pushes the envelope of learning and experimentation, however unique and different they each are. And yet, in my inquiries these past couple of weeks, I have had some frank answers to these musings. Many, of course, insist the lead lives of purpose and focus. Not possessing these qualities is probably a hard thing to see in oneself or to admit. On the other hand, I was inspired by some who frankly said they were not self-disciplined and spoke about the ways that has affected their lives. Some have regrets, others have focused instead on their other fine qualities. It’s one more take on the nature/nuture argument. I love thinking about these things.

What do you think? Do you identify yourself as goal-oriented? If not, how have you achieved what you have? If so, do you think you were born that way or is there a life-defining moment you could share with us that caused you to focus, to become more purposeful? Post your comments or send us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

The critical conclusion is that there is most likely not one silver bullet to unraveling the mystery of why some individuals fall to Alzheimer’s and others do not. Each finding gives another clue and, as Dr. Wilson says, another suggestion for something we might try to ward off this illness. At Capabilities we have introduced a focus on brain fitness. You can read our many Brain Tips and Facts, check out the incredible Brain Fitness program with a free demo, or try our fun Scrambles puzzles. We intend to add to our collection over the coming months. What other ideas do you have for us? Email with your ideas about specific products you enjoy or have seen that enhance brain fitness.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Thinking about the Possibilities

We had another incredible week of experiences at Capabilities. They say you can tell a lot about who you are by looking at the 5 people you spend the most time with. We have a bit of a twist on this and say you can tell a lot about us at Capabilities by the great company we keep and the groups we support. Among the many invitations we respond to, this week we spent time at the annual events sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind. The Colorado Chapter and related local chapters hosted their annual conference in Denver this year. I had the pleasure of representing Capabilities and providing information about products for low vision and blindness. I also had the chance to sit in on a couple of the many great speakers who, by their presence and their accomplishments, provide useful information and inspiration to the attendees.

I was struck in particular with one of the speakers who gave a history of the blindness movement in this country. He and several of the speakers quoted early on the depressing employment statistics, for example, for the blind population. There is a 75% unemployment rate among this group. This says a lot about the enormity of the task ahead in working with employers to raise awareness and funds to transform workplaces into friendly places for people with disabilities of all kinds, especially, it seems, for those who are blind.

His talk harkened back to the early days of help movements, sparked, he said, by the concept of “noblesse oblige,” the idea that those who have must help support those who do not have. While also considered pejorative, the notion of “noblesse oblige” helped fuel what is now the business of so-call “helping organizations,” non-profit groups, church groups, missionary groups and the like, around the world. The speaker highlighted the creation of “asylums” for the blind, institutions born out of an initial spirit of concern and compassion, but transformed through the practice of isolation into prisons where the blind became dependent on the kindness of others, and therefore, more and more removed from society.

This discussion caught my attention because just days before I had heard an intense discussion with a leader from an African nation decrying the African aid efforts of celebrities, like Bono of U2, suggesting that many African nations have become infantilized as a result, unable now to create the kinds of economies developing nations must in order to survive for the long term. It’s a case of “giving them the fish,” he exclaimed, “rather than teaching them how to fish.” The argument was compelling as he cited situation after situation where aid groups “rescue” populations only to leave them to fend for themselves with the same levels of intellectual, political and economic tools as they had previously. The cycle continues. In come the rescuers again. The nation never develops.

The speaker at the NFB event on Friday, however, drew a sharp contrast to the way leaders among the blind have evolved. And he points to the accomplishments of the NFB, to the many organizations that exist today for research, education and promotion of those with blindness. The basis now is self-sufficiency, he explained. Just look at the way businesses are putting together research and practicality to create sophisticated tools that enhance independence. This is where the intersection of purpose and creativity comes. It is a place I respect and spend my days in, as we are ever on the search for the kinds of tools that foster independence, that bring a smile back as someone does again what they have loved to do, but for a while believed was impossible with their blindness or low vision.

As I’ve thought about it more in these past few days, I went back and refreshed my memory on the emergence of the term, “noblesse oblige.” I was first a student of French literature and I recalled that Honoré de Balzac is credited with using this expression first in his Le Lys dans la vallée in 1835. William Faulkner used the term a lot in his novels, contrasting the haves and the have nots, as in The Sound and the Fury, for example. The concept, however, is ancient, even if the expression itself is fairly modern. The expectations of royalty to deliver to the people, to bring succor and respond to real needs, were ever-present to dynasties and monarchies across civilization. Sometimes they sparked events that that created positive change. It was great to hear an analysis last week that was not afraid to recall the positive associations of “noblesse oblige” while highlighting the path that leads away from dependency to a culture of independence.

We are lucky to keep such good company that at once enlightens and stimulates important dialogue and thought, and reinforces our purpose and mission at Capabilities. Many thanks to all who sponsored and spoke at the conference and to the many who attended and spent time speaking with us. We are better for having met you and worked with you.

Please enter the dialogue whenever you would like by posting a comment or thought to the topics we write about. We know that people continue to grow and learn through the interactions with others. Your contribution may be just the catalyst someone else needs to make a change for the better.