Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mobility and Medicare: A Practical Guide, Part 1.

Now, here’s a topic we spend a lot of time explaining to many of customers. We thought we’d start a conversation in this week’s blog, and invite you to join in by posting your own experiences and thoughts about it. We know passions run deeply on the subject, so don’t hesitate to put in your two cents.

Until recently most working people over the generations believed deeply that between Social Security and Medicare, most of our needs as we age would be taken care of. Talk to most 40 and 50 somethings today, however, and you will hear a lot of cynicism on the subject. And anyone younger than that will say plainly that they are working on alternative solutions to ensure ways to take care of themselves when they are older. There are, however, many folks over 65 who still believe in these programs. And for some, the programs will deliver as promised long ago. Let’s peel back a few layers of this complex situation of Medicare, starting with a focus on mobility. We will write periodically on the topic, reviewing different products and how to consider whether it is likely that Medicare will cover them or not.

Individuals must qualify for Medicare coverage for mobility equipment, or mobility assistive equipment as it’s officially called. The process starts with a prescription signed and dated by a physician that must contain:
• the name of the beneficiary of Medicare
• the date of what’s called the “face-to-face” examination (more on that later)
• a description of the product ordered, such as a “power wheelchair” or “scooter,” a pertinent diagnosis and explanation of the conditions that relate to the need for the power mobility device
• length of need

Very often the process stops right here for us at the store. A customer in need (or someone in his or her family) arrives with a prescription that simply has the words “wheelchair” on it. The customer explains that the doctor said Medicare would pay for a power chair, although the prescription does not indicate such. Now, we respect doctors very much. We also know that they are focused on care and treatment, not on maneuvering their way through the wiles of insurance systems, especially one with as many details as Medicare. So, it is perfectly understandable that in many cases physicians believe they have completed their part of the deal, or they know that we will continue the work with someone in their offices to complete the paperwork that Medicare requires. The disappointment of that customer in that moment, however, is hard to witness and we do the best we can to help with the situation.

You should know that in no circumstance could you actually drive the power operated vehicle (power wheelchair or scooter) out of the store even if the written order had every detail covered.

We need evidence that the face-to-face examination was conducted and that it yielded appropriate results. In fact, we must submit the physician’s chart notes as evidence that we, as the dealer of the power operated vehicle, have done due diligence, too.

Let’s take a closer look at what kinds of questions get uncovered during that examination.
The primary question that has to be answered is this:

Does the patient have a mobility limitation that impairs participation in what are called Mobility Required Activities of Daily Living (MRADLs) in the home? MRADLs are things like eating, dressing, toileting. Unfortunately, being able to go out shopping or to the library does not count as MRADLs. Note, it also says “in the home.” So, the fact that you have not been out to dinner in six months is not what Medicare will worry about when they consider coverage for your power chair.

If the doctor cannot answer this question affirmatively, the process stops there. You do not qualify for coverage. If the answer is yes, the next question is whether the limitation can be compensated by the addition of other “mobility assistive equipment” to improve the ability to participate in MRADLs in the home. This means, can the situation actually be helped by the addition of some type of mobility assistive device? If no, you do not qualify for Medicare coverage. If the answer is yes, then there are a series of questions about specific alternatives. I will simply list the next series of questions that must be answered.

• Is the patient or caregiver capable and willing to operate the mobility assistive equipment (MAE)? If no, then stop. No coverage. If yes, go on.
• Can the mobility deficit be safely resolved by a cane or walker? If yes, stop and order cane or walker. If not, why not. You can only go on with the next question when the doctor has documented why these simpler devices will not work.
• Does the patient’s home environment support the use of a wheelchair or power operated vehicle, such as a power wheelchair or scooter? If no, you are not qualified for coverage. If yes, the supplier (like us at Capabilities) has to do a home evaluation to ensure the type of equipment does in fact work in your home.

There are more questions, so buck up. Take a break, get a cup of tea and read on…

• Does the patient have the upper extremity function to safely propel a manual wheelchair in order to actively participate in MRADLs in the home? If yes, stop and order the manual wheelchair. If not, go on.
• Does the patient have sufficient strength and trunk stability to operate a power operated vehicle in the home? The doctor has to explain a bit more about this part of the assessment. For example, how does he or she know the patient has sufficient strength. If yes, go on to next question. If no, skip to the following question.

Are you still following me here? No easy feat, is it?

• If patient has sufficient strength and trunk stability, is the patient able to maneuver the power operated vehicle in the home? Explain. If yes, stop and order that power vehicle, most likely a scooter. If no, go on.
• Does the patient need additional features (e.g., customized seating, joystick, reclining back) of a power wheelchair to participate in the MRADLs in the home? Why? If no, stop. There is no rationale for Medicare to cover this vehicle. If yes, one more question.
• Is the patient safe and able to maneuver a power wheelchair in the home? If yes, stop and order it. If no, stop.

The physician has another page of information required before we can consider doing the home evaluation and completing the paperwork for your power wheelchair.

While onerous, the process is designed to weed out fraud or unnecessary purchases for those who truly do not need such high powered and expensive equipment. Unfortunately, like most processes that really do have a purpose, it can also be so difficult that people get discouraged or angry. They find it hard to believe that something they believe they were entitled to can be so impossible.

Medicare is insurance and as for every insurance policy, there are conditions that must be met. If you keep this perspective, you can maneuver more easily through the process without raising your blood pressure. We will help you do this as best we can.

I’ve learned a lot about Medicare in these two years. Not only can I help our customers understand the process more effectively, I know I will be a better consumer of Medicare when it’s time for me to qualify as a card carrying member.

Let us know if this type of informational blog is helpful to you by posting your comment below or email us. What else would be helpful? As I mentioned, we will continue with our series on understanding and using Medicare effectively in coming weeks.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Daily Living - The Effort To Make It Easier.

You have probably guessed by now that in this partnership duo, I am the one who loves to blog. I write all the time and enjoy it immensely. This week we are featuring some musings from Pam Pressel. This is the terrific thing about our being co-founders and owners of Capabilities. We each bring very different talents and skills to the table. The best part is that those differences are complimentary… at least most of the time. Oh, we have our share of issues we discuss and sometimes disagree about, but we always come back to what makes us such a winning team. We share the same passionate vision about Capabilities. When we were working on the plan before we opened, we would give ourselves assignments. For example, we challenged ourselves to each go off and write what we saw as the vision and purpose of Capabilities. It was remarkable to share our notes later and see just how similarly we saw the possibilities. Capabilities would not be the great company it is today without each of our contributions. I feel very lucky to have Pam as my partner. So, while Pam does not do a lot of writing, she is an incredible expert in the field of health and retail. She is my constant teacher and I appreciate her patience and knowledge. She also has many interesting musings about our business and is often asked to speak at public events. This past week Pam was a featured speaker at the National Assistive Technology Technical Assistance Partnership annual conference. This group of project directors for Assistive Technology programs from around the country gather annually to share the latest information regarding how to get tools and programs into the hands of those who need them. You can find out more about all this by reading Pam’s blog. You can see what the Colorado Assistive Technology Project is up to by visiting

First of all, let’s clarify the term “assistive device.” Essentially, it is anything that helps someone do something more easily and independently. Those jar openers you see everywhere are “assistive devices.” So are grab bars in bathrooms. We are surrounded by such tools in our daily lives. Our goal at Capabilities – and the goal of those attending the recent conference I spoke at – is to ensure accessibility to the array of assistive devices that make daily living easier and more manageable, regardless of age or ability.

There are three major themes:
1. How generations shop differently, make their decisions for assistive products differently.
2. How a combined physical store presence and web presence spans multigenerational access to assistive devices.
3. How emerging trends are influencing the types of assistive devices available.

First, how generations shop differently.
Customers from the Silent Generation, shop differently from their Boomer children. They tend to be independent and want to do things themselves, including bootstrapping a solution to a problem. They purchase products and services, but they have to be able to perceive the value of an item as a necessary addition, unlike Boomers who sometimes buy things just because they are “cool.” The Silent Generation will often turn away from a needed product because of the price.

Boomers on the other hand are used to buying what they want and expect elements of design, style, choice and price to be present. Boomers are not AGING! Or at least, they are committed to doing it very differently.

We find, being among the Boomer generation, that they, we, are searching now for the products and services that will help them remain healthy, independent and in their own homes. Boomers especially appreciate having choice in the distribution channel. Being able to purchase assistive devices either from the store or online is important, especially when they are helping care for their parents long distance.

These two generations converge in scenarios that look like this: Dad or Mom shops focusing on price and insurance reimbursement. Many pay less to style, choice and personal comfort. Customers over 75 are more likely to settle for whatever Medicare will allow. Since price is often most important to them, they will talk themselves out of a needed device and say they can get by without or figure out a substitute. We see many customers who come in with equipment they have borrowed or purchased at yard sales. Often they are using equipment that is of poor quality or poor fit. When the Boomer son or daughter is shopping with Mom or Dad, he or she usually encourages the parent to get the best and will often purchase it for the parents.

That leads to our second area of discussion. Making products accessible through a variety of distribution channels enhances the odds that people will discover them. As more and more of the public shop on line, we have to be sure that we are adding value as a storefront. Even with the increase in internet based shopping, studies show that a retailer that creates experiential environments for their customer has a better chance of winning that customer loyalty and repeat business. Customer-focused problem solving creates the loyalty and trust that retailers need to keep the customer coming back to the location.

Capabilities began with the mission of creating a shopping experience for our customers similar to Sharper Image and Brookstone. We believe the more someone can touch, experiment with and understand a product before they purchase enhances the overall experience and pleasure of buying it. It’s likely to stay in the customers hands, too, and not come back as a return. Our job is to de-mystify medical equipment and assistive devices and provide appropriate solutions for challenges.

We are using our new web site to extend the look and feel of the bricks and mortar store to the virtual store. Accessibility to products multiplies with this dual approach. Our customers can use either the physical location or the web site. We find that they do so in a combination of ways. They may research first on the web and then come in to touch and feel, or they may come in for a fitting and then use our web site for subsequent purchases. Compression stockings and incontinence supplies are perfect examples.

We actually find that many people in general still like to come into a store and see what a thing looks like. The difference is that the older the customer, the less likely he or she is to shop online. Surprisingly, though, we do see some customers in their early 80s looking online first. They use it for research and then come in to check it out before they purchase. Many still like the idea of having a local retailer in case there is a problem and they need to return the item.

Third, the trends we see and how they are influencing product availability. The emerging Boomer market with its demand for style, design, choice is driving new product development and a new cultural framework around aging. We see 4 categories of changes influencing products and service:

  • Design: It’s a slow transformation, but we are beginning to see manufacturers introduce a sense of style. For example, Drive Medical. They’ve engaged Michael Graves, a renowned designer and architect, commissioned by Target and other mega-corporations over the last decade to introduce design into the everyday products they sell. We’re invited regularly to chat with the Michael Graves product designers to offer feedback on their emerging ideas.
    Their first releases due this Fall in the bath safety area have clean lines, a splash of color and rounded edges. As Boomers age and need more products to enhance independence and mobility, this approach to manufacturing will take root across the industry. Pride Mobility released three new designs for lift chairs this year, including new fabric choices and colors. Manufacturers of pillows and cushions are also developing unique and varied designs. Obus Forme, for example, released a unique back support with an attractive and functional curve. They also highlight the scientific research that led them to this design. And manufacturers of wheelchairs, scooters and walkers have made at least one model of each that sports some new design element.
  • Focus on brain fitness: Kathryn has written quite a bit so far in our blogs about this phenomenon and the role we are playing. We are actively looking for more unique products to compliment the addition of this great software to our product mix. Every day we discover new ones as manufacturers jump on this important trend.
  • Products for staying home, aging in place as some call this phenomenon, are multiplying as Boomers age. Transforming one’s home becomes more and more feasible. There have been adaptive products for making the home safer and more easily maneuverable, especially since the passage of the ADA in the early 90s. What we notice is that there are more and more manufacturers getting into this arena. Ten years ago there might have been two or three major choices for stair lifts, for example, while now there are a dozen or more, some of them packaged almost as do-it-yourself. Of special interest to us is the Safety Bath. Designed by an entrepreneur in Canada, this tub features a lower threshold lip for easy access, a door that opens out (not in as does the tub that has occupied center stage), whirlpool jets, and a raised cushioned seat. The newest models also sport features of a warm air massage unit. While the technology exists to transform ordinary kitchen cabinets and counter tops into those that adjust to the level of the user, we find they have not yet become a popular choice. We predict this whole arena of home modification and adaptation will grow.
  • Low vision is no longer just the realm of handheld magnifiers. Low vision is now recognized to be the critical issue it is. Vision plays a key role in an individual’s perceptions of independence and mobility. Electronic solutions are expanding. One that impresses us gives the user the option of focusing the camera in three different ways: one as a traditional video reader, or CCTV; a second option to point the camera away from the eye to enhance long distance vision; and, a third use as a magnifying mirror. On the service side, Colorado is a leader with a new designation for some Doctors of Optometry. The state now has a special certification specifically for low vision. These are the doctors we invite to present at our seminars.

It is an exciting time to be in now with the “Boomer tsunami” growing. I’ve heard that term twice now in the past 2 months, so it must be building. There is also reference to “Boomsday,” January 1, 2008, when the first of this generation will turn 62 and become eligible for Social Security. Economists are predicting all kinds of economic shifts once this happens. We predict the focus on assistive devices will sharpen. We have opportunities now to create very different futures for ourselves and our children.

Assistive devices are finally emerging out of what has been the sole realm of medical manufacturers, and are now coming from mainstream companies bringing the costs down for many. Volume of product will increase in the coming years; costs will reduce. Continued miniaturization in the computer industry will create new products helping people see, hear, speak, live comfortably and independently. We are thrilled to be at the cutting edge of this new way of bringing assistive technology and devices to the public.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Internet Classes

If you’ve been a faithful reader, you may remember that Michael Benidt and Sheryl Kay were our first featured bloggers a number of weeks ago. They are the folks who deliver those wonderful and relevant computer classes. Many thanks to them for that great contribution. We heard from a number of people who came into the store that they loved those tips on using Google more effectively. And that was just the teaser! Be sure to sign up for their classes in June. There are two: Hidden Google Treasures of the Internet; and Hidden Travel Treasures of the Internet. You can sign up online! See our Events.
Hidden Google Treasures of the Internet.
Everybody has heard of Google, but most of us don’t realize the true power of Google until we learn all of its productivity secrets. If you think the amount of information out there is just overwhelming, Google and the other top search engines offer ways to target what you are looking for and get to it quickly. If you think these sites are just a simple search engines, think again. The productivity tools, public relations, advertising and networking potential of Google, Yahoo and Ask are currently being captured by only a few of the most forward thinking companies. Beginners and experts alike will not only learn ways to search more effectively, but also how to put the most effective strategies to work to for your business.
Hidden Travel Treasures of the Internet.
Online travel is exploding in popularity because it saves you money, is convenient and can be put to work for your very next trip. Hidden Travel Treasures of the Internet is the perfect way to put the Internet to work for you. Michael & Sheryl will again weave their Internet magic by whittling down thousands of travel sites to those that actually provide value, adventure and service. They’ll take you off the beaten track to discover ideas for vacations you just can’t pass up. And, they’ll even fire up your fantasy armchair-travel world Come hear about last minute deals; safety and research; gizmos and gadgets; adventure and luxury travel, and much, much more.

Signup online!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Easter Seals

I have the lucky fortune of serving on the Board of Directors for Easter Seals Colorado. Have you heard about it? What an amazing organization! Like many gems, Easter Seals may not be well known among many. Until someone dear might need their services, that is. Easter Seals provides services to children and adults with disabilities and other special needs, and support to their families. I am impressed with the quality and commitment of the staff and many volunteers.
It is my pleasure this week to introduce Lynn Robinson, President/CEO of Easter Seals, as our guest blogger this week. Lynn brings passion and pure joy to her role. Her accomplishments are huge and her heart is just as big. She writes in today’s blog about the stroke program. May is stroke awareness month.

There are multiple other programs as well. For example, H.E.A.R.S. which provides hearing aids to adults at no, low, or affordable cost to those who could not otherwise afford them. Or, Colorado AgrAbility is a partnership between Colorado State University Cooperative Extension and Easter Seals Colorado with a goal to maximize independence of farmers, ranchers, and their families who are facing new obstacles due to injury, illness, or disability by providing services, information, and education. All of Colorado AgrAbility services are free to individuals. And, of course, one of their most popular and wonderful services is Rocky Mountain Village, the Easter Seals Camp that provides summer camp experiences to kids with disabilities.

Our Board meets at camp for one our quarterly meetings every year. Seeing the kids, meeting the counselors, watching the difference the experience makes make me so proud to be part of an organization that works this hard to give over 800 children a summer the chance to play in ways they often cannot because of the nature of their disabilities. They get to swim, ride horses, rock climb, fish, learn arts and crafts, all with the help of camp counselors from all over Colorado and elsewhere and a facility that combines clever solutions with state-of-the-art equipment. There is no doubt that camp is one of Easter Seals very special contributions to the community.

As President of Easter Seals Colorado, I find so many rewards every day. We serve over 6,000 Colorado residents every year, providing services to help them address the challenges they face, whether from permanent or temporary illnesses and injuries, or from health concerns they have had from birth. I am so proud of all that we do, and of the incredible staff and volunteers who work with us.

One of very successful programs is our Stroke Day Program. Easter Seals Colorado’s Stroke Day Program is the only day program in Colorado focusing solely on the needs of stroke survivors. Our Day Program empowers our participants to take a proactive role in their health and independence assisting them in their goals to remain living independently, improve their daily living skills as well as build a social network with other survivors who truly relate to the challenges each survivor faces. For many, this program enables our participants to remain in their own home.

The Stroke Day Program provides a full day of cost-effective rehabilitation and fitness. The fee for the program is $70/day providing Physical, Occupational, Warm Water, and Speech/Language Therapies, and case management in one setting so that survivors and their caregivers do not travel to multiple sites throughout the week to get necessary treatments.

Easter Seals Colorado’s Stroke Day Program also recognizes the impact of stroke on a survivor’s family providing vital respite and support to caregivers. Additionally, the Program provides training, education and counseling for caregivers.

The best person to tell you how important the stroke program is one of our program participants. This is Garland’s Story:

My name is Garland and I am 65 years old. I had my stroke in 1995 and was paralyzed on my left side. I was unable to do any of my basic self care tasks or walk after my stroke. My life had drastically changed as I knew it. I was in the hospital for about a week and then rehabilitation for about five weeks. I was discharged home, and I was still unable to walk and needing assistance with my self care tasks. My wife, Joanne helped me with everything. I then received therapy services in my home. I began to walk with a hemi walker and eventually regained some of my independence. After therapy services are done there are not many other services for survivors like me to take advantage of. My wife and I became involved with Rocky Mountain Stroke Association in 1996. We became volunteers to assist other stroke survivors and started attending physical therapy classes. I also started using Easter Seals Colorado warm water therapy pool for an hour each week. I would continued to spend most of my time at home alone and without productive activities. When I heard that Easter Seals Colorado was opening a stroke specific day program in 2003 I decided to look into it. My wife and the stroke program director started talking about the program and I immediately thought this is worthless. I’ve had all the therapy I could get and what good is anymore activity going to do? I was also hesitant to attend the program because I had to take Access-A-Ride. Well needless to say I tried the program and have not looked back because I love it. I come to the day program one day a week. It has given me more motivation to start doing things I used to do, like use the computer. I have developed relationships with the other survivors and the staff of Easter Seals Colorado. I’m treated like a normal person and allowed to be who I am. I have learned so much and I feel better about myself. I’m walking more and standing up taller thanks to the therapy I receive at the day program. My wife Joanne also enjoys the program; it has been a godsend to her. She was frustrated that after years dealing with my stroke I seemed to be losing ground. Attending the program has given me a special day out and given Joanne time to herself. I am so thankful that there is a program out there to help stroke survivors get back into the community and regain their independence.

Please be sure to check out all the other programs Easter Seals offers at their website ( Many thanks to Lynn Robinson for blogging with us at Capabilities.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Stroke: Take It To Heart

Do you know someone who has suffered a stroke? Every 45 seconds someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke. May is Stroke Awareness Month.

We have occasion in our store to meet people every day who are surviving stroke. We meet, too, the families of those who are in the immediate throes of worry as a loved one is hospitalized or is in rehabilitation. They come in looking for products and resources to help with recovery for themselves or someone they love and care about. I’ll talk some later about some of the tools and aids that help people regain independence.

We have an inside view on just how many people pick up their lives and focus on regaining strength and mobility after surviving a stroke. We donate our community room to Rocky Mountain Stroke Association every week. Physical therapist Michele Harrison works with individuals and their families on movement, strength training, balance and maneuvering through day-to-day activities in that room.

Take Lyn, for example, who writes in a letter to the editor that “many stroke survivors can recover functions even years after the stroke. They do it by persistent trying and rehabilitation help.” Lyn should know. She is one of the ones working hard, trying persistently, and benefiting from the great program Rocky Mountain Stroke Association (RMSA) offers in our community room. Lyn and her husband learned about Brain Fitness, the software program we sell at Capabilities. They saw a demo, did some research, and got excited about the possibilities. Lyn reports progress as she makes her way through the many levels of exercises.

Because stroke often affects the ability to speak, speech therapist, Julie Harrington, works with RMSA stroke survivors. She offers speech assessments, therapy and support groups. I had the chance recently to go into the group for a bit of conversation. It was great to interact with so many determined folks and their families. They are committed to the possibilities. “Be unlimited,” we say, regardless of the challenges that will always, in one way, or another present themselves. I admire the courage and determination I see in these incredible people every week.

Keeping all those arteries that lead into and out of the heart and brain clear and healthy is full-time business. Eat well, exercise, laugh, live fully, the experts say are the best ways to ensure health and try to prevent stroke in the first place.

Recognizing symptoms can make a world of difference when stroke occurs. Sudden numbness, confusion, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, trouble walking, severe headache with no known cause. I recently read that asking the individual to speak a simple sentence coherently can give you even more valuable information quickly. And say, “Stick out your tongue.” If it pulls strongly in one direction, and some of the other symptoms are visible, act quickly. Call 911. Every minute counts. Nearly 5 million stroke survivors are alive today because of quick action at the time.

Because stroke is the leading cause of disability, it is the days and months following a stroke that require determination, patience and resourcefulness on everyone’s part to ensure optimal repair and growth of brain tissue. Developing a program of rehabilitation with a team of professionals as quickly as possible proves essential to retraining the body and the mind. The brain amazingly has the ability to forge new routes, to learn, to find alternative connections. Repetition builds both physical and mental muscle. A focus on reclaiming as much independence as possible provides motivation and hope, invaluable qualities for the survivor and loved ones alike.

And there are tools aplenty to help navigate the way safely and competently – tools for mobility, dressing, eating, standing, sitting; products that comfort, soothe and encourage independence; community resources for survivors and caregivers alike. As the individual prepares to go back home after hospitalization and perhaps a stint in a rehab facility, it is critical to ensure safety first. Focus on the bathroom and bedroom first. Install grab bars, get a raised toilet seat, a bath bench or tub lift. Add a rail or support bar to the bed to facilitate getting into and out of the bed. We have a great one called the Bed Cane that is very functional and attractive, sometimes a difficult combination to achieve in the world of assistive devices. You might need to install ramps, either permanent ones if the individual will need to use a wheelchair for a long period of time, or portable ones that you can move when needed. Threshold ramps are also essential in some homes that have thresholds between rooms. They allow for easier and safer maneuverability around the home.

Depending on how the stroke affected the individual, you might also want to have a reacher on hand, long-handled combs, brushes and sponges so s/he can feel as independent as possible. We especially love a new type of elastic shoelace developed by a Colorado company that allows you adjustment of the tension at each set of eyelets, making a custom fit. The user simply slides his or her foot into the shoe without having to tie and untie. They also have that wonderful combination of useful and attractive, available in about 15 colors.

For the rest of May we will include in our weekly newsletter information about additional products, community resources, and any tips readers might share with us. Come join us for Stroke Prevention Day at Capabilities at 10:00am on Tuesday, June 19th. Representatives from Rocky Mountain Stroke Association, Easter Seals and Life Line Screening will be leading an open panel discussion and answering questions to help you become more "stroke smart". This is a valuable opportunity to learn about types of stroke, warning signs, risk factors, healthy lifestyle choices, community services and a lot more.

Let us know your story about stroke. Tell us about the rehabilitation process, what tools work best, what advice you have for others. Please post a comment with details.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Rent Me!

We wrote last week about the magnificent RollerAid. We also mentioned what a popular item this is in our rental fleet. We have one of the largest fleets of RollerAids in the Denver Metro area, as a matter of fact. That means we always have one available for rent! Well, almost always. We’ve only gotten caught once or twice with a waiting list.

We realized early on there were so many requests for rentals, having a substantial rental fleet of numerous products would be a great service to our customers. It was an interesting process (and sometimes still is) determining just how many wheelchairs, for example, to have for rent. Some weeks it seems as if we can never have enough. Like now, for example, in the middle of graduation season. We are getting many calls as grandmothers and grandpas, aunts and uncles, and long-time family friends pour in from everywhere to watch their dear one get that diploma. Renting a wheelchair can make the whole experience more enjoyable for everyone, especially the one who might have difficulty walking or standing for long periods of time.

We even have a power chair in our rental fleet!

Perhaps a rolling walker or regular walker as you recover from hip surgery or that sprained back. We have crutches, too, which are a great deal if you have a very temporary need for them. If you have a family of football players and teenagers, though, you might want to buy a pair and keep them in the garage.

We also find that patient beds, or hospitable beds as most of the world calls them, are popular rental items. We had one customer whose mother was visiting over the holidays and fell, breaking her leg. Recovery was six to eight weeks. Renting a hospital bed made all the difference. We went over to the house and set it up in the den on the first floor. With a bathroom nearby, Mom was comfy and so was everyone else.

Portable ramps are useful, especially for visiting relatives or those who might be recuperating at the home of a son or a daughter after an injury or illness. We have multifold ramps in multiple lengths for your convenience.

We all cherish accessibility and mobility. Renting something to ensure that capability for someone you care about can make a great difference.

Visit us if you’re local to the Denver Metro area or email us for more details on rentals.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Now Hear This!

We have not talked much about hearing in these blogs. It's time! It turns out it is often one of the first senses to diminish as we age. And with the noisy world we're in, it's happening faster. One-third of people over 60 and fully one-half over 85 experience hearing loss. This type of gradual hearing loss is called presbycusis and it is not reversible. Doctors believe that heredity and exposure to noise are the main contributors to hearing loss. Loud noise wears on parts of the inner ear causing the clarity of sound, then the volume of sound to diminish. I remember when my mother started experiencing hearing loss. At first, she told us all to speak up and stop mumbling. We'd come home for a visit to the TV blaring. It took us time to convince her she was losing her hearing. When she finally agreed to a hearing aid, the world was great for a long time for her... and us. Then, the other ear started to go and the decline was precipitous. With two hearing aids to manage, she was less motivated. Many times during the day she would turn them down or off completely. She withdrew from conversations and eventually began avoiding social situations altogether.

She was not uncommon in her response to hearing loss. I meet people every day who have a loved one who is either well down the road and resistant to help or who is just beginning to experience hearing loss. In addition to hearing aids, there are many tools available to enhance sound for someone at various stages of hearing loss.

We are always on the lookout for new products in all categories. We have one in particular that has offered great relief to many customers and their families. It's called DirectEar 100 TV System and it's one of the finest products on the market. It is an infrared listening system that provides crystal clear audio up to a distance of 40 feet. This makes it a perfect solution for watching TV. It connects easily to any television or sound system and comes with a stereo transmitter, receiver, rechargeable battery and all the required cables. There are other brands on the market, but we chose this one because of its clarity and ease of use.

You can stop by Capabilities if you are local to the area and experience the DirectEar 100 for yourself with our display demo.

While you're there, take a look at the array of other solutions we have for hearing loss. We carry numerous phones, for example. I especially like the C440 Cordless Amplified Phone. It combines the convenience of a cordless with the practicality of an amplified phone for those with hearing loss. It is one of our most popular phones. We have a huge collection of phones, vibrating clocks and watches and other tools for those with hearing loss.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Exchange: Buy, Sell or Donate Used Equipment

You may have noticed we have a tab on our website called Exchange. We’ve mentioned it before, but we thought it was time to draw your attention to it again. We created that space in direct response to our customers’ requests about what to do with that walker or wheelchair of Mom’s or Dad’s now that they no longer need it. Street value of all equipment drops like a rock once it’s out of the showroom. You know that from all the cars you’ve purchased over the years. On the other hand, there are always folks looking for equipment whether it be for a permanent illness or injury or something more temporary. As insurance and Medicare rules change continuously, many are finding it too difficult to purchase new products. Our Exchange bulletin board gives you the chance to post your need, whether you have something to sell or want to buy. We also encourage donations to non-profit organizations. When you make such a donation, you can usually write off the value of that object on your taxes. Check with your tax advisor on this before you proceed.

If you have equipment in good and usable condition in your basement or garage that you’ve said a thousand times you want to do something with, now is the time. It’s still a new feature, of course, but as you post, we get more traffic. You get more eyeballs seeing what’s out there.

Be sure to see the Toy Swap planned for July. Check our Events page, too, for more information.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Roll Your Way to Freedom!

The warm weather this past week brought everyone out, it seems. I saw joggers, walkers, tennis players, in-line skaters, and loungers galore everywhere I looked. We also had our share of people coming into Capabilities asking for ice packs, braces, Pain Wizard…and crutches. I can’t tell you how many stories we heard of broken ankles, twisted ankles, sprained ankles. And, how many people are excited when they learn about the RollerAid.

Over the past few years, many manufacturers have experimented with something to replace crutches when there is an injury to the foot. We’ll talk another time about how the basic design of crutches has not changed since the time of the pharaohs, but anyone whose had to use those things knows how uncomfortable they can be. While useful (and inevitable with certain leg injuries), the emerging technology for rolling knee supports is impressive. We were delighted to find RollerAid a couple of years ago. It looks like a tricycle of sorts with a large padded cushion on which you rest the knee and lower portion of the leg with the injured foot. It features swivel wheels, a significant improvement over some of the other popular brands, allowing you to effectively drive the vehicle where you need to go, rather than having to lift it to change direction.

One of the most interesting aspects of the RollerAid is that is also helps with balance, something crutches can actually compromise. And we’ve heard first hand from our customers that they’ve noticed a difference staying more active by using it. With crutches, they just do the essentials; with RollerAid they actually get out and about more frequently. We even had a customer who got three of them. She lives in a tri-level home and wanted one for each level. Unfortunately, the RollerAid can’t climb stairs yet. Maybe one day…

It’s convenient, too, with a collapsible handle, a drink holder, and a great basket. The newer models we carry have locking swivel wheels so when you’re on a straight surface with few reasons to turn, you can gather some speed and get rolling!

Of all our rental items, we have the most requests for this product. We have a huge fleet and there is constant turnover. If you have not discovered RollerAid yet, come in and check it out. If you have used one, tell us about your experience by posting a comment here.

We typically do rent this product, although we have had some folks with chronic foot conditions or surgeries buy one. It really makes a difference! Please email us about renting or buying a RollerAid.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


This week’s Guest Blog is by Dr. Anthony DeLorenzo, creator of the LifeMine, the personal health organizer. Dr. DeLorenzo and his team have put together this extraordinary tool that puts us at the center of our health care, by encouraging users to gather information about their medical conditions, the types of treatments provided, tests and results, prescriptions and over the counter medications, doctors’ visits, exercise regimes, wishes about living and dying. His vision is for people to arm themselves with knowledge about personal health and adopt the understanding that our health and wellness is our greatest treasure and life-long responsibility I find this tool remarkable in its simplicity. We all know that having a central repository for information regarding our health, finances, and directives is critical, and yet for most of us this information is scattered around the house, in file cabinets, safes and drawers. How many times have you searched high and low for a medical record or list of drugs you or a loved one takes regularly, cursing because you know it’s somewhere? LifeMine offers step-by-step instruction for gathering and storing personal health related information along with detailed instruction on how to utilize this information to maximize health and wellness. We’ve had many great responses since we started carrying it. It’s easy to use is the comment we hear most. Adult children and grandchildren especially love this personal organizer since they are often the ones who help manage care for their parents or grandparents as they age. As a Boomer who has been caregiver for family members, and as someone whose own collection of paperwork continues to grow, I am impressed with this product.

We all understand the importance of good health. Our society spends more on health
care than ever before, yet most would agree that people are not enjoying greater health.

The old healthcare delivery system put the doctor in the center of the universe with all knowledge and control radiating from this place of most knowledge and understanding of the human body. The doctor asks questions, examines the body and based on knowledge and training, forms a list of possible causes of a particular problem. Modern medicine utilizes procedures that can look at the cells and chemicals in the blood as well as x-rays that allow for views into the body. Based on all this information from questions, exams and tests, the doctor can then narrow the list to determine the problem and make recommendations for how the patient can bring about improved health.

The emerging healthcare delivery system puts the patient at the center of the universe. It encourages us to gather information about our medical problems, to know the types of treatments provided, to keep records of tests reports and opinions, to take over the counter or home remedies, to make doctor's visits to prevent and look for early signs of illness, and to strive to stay healthy and live balanced lives. Armed with this information and insight, the patient is able to collaborate with physicians. There will still be illness, the need for tests and evaluation. As well, the challenges of making the proper diagnosis and prescribing the proper treatments will still exist and require expert help. The difference is that the patient is engaged and informed, educated and involved. The new system is transformed from being illness focused to health focused.

People want to play an active role in attaining or maintaining optimum health, yet our current educational system and popular culture does not provide us with basic knowledge in these matters. In 22 years of experience in direct patient care, I have identified many areas of concern on the part of patients and health care providers. As a result, I developed a system to facilitate the educational process. This system utilizes the most effective step-by-step method for bringing about personal change in health related behavior, the frank and open face-to-face discussion of the doctor and the patient. I developed this easy-to-use basic system which presents information in a way that honors each person's current knowledge and yet provides clear and thorough guidance for personal empowerment. This basic operating system is called the "LifeMine Personal Health Organizer". It truly assists the individual in taking charge of their health. It raises the standard for how we perceive our health and our role in maintaining it.

As each person learns to gather, organize and store all necessary medically related information in one place and in a manner that is useful to them and their caregivers over a lifetime, it also will provide the information needed to make the most of our healthcare dollars. LifeMine will help maximize each doctor's visit by teaching each person how to prepare to help their doctor help them.

I have watched many of my patients increase their knowledge and confidence to be at their center of their own health care. LifeMine has been an important tool for them in this process.

Dr. DeLorenzo is a staff physician in the Department of Internal Medicine at Hinsdale Hospital and Lagrange Memorial Hospital, serves as staff physician at several local extended care facilities, and is on the Board of Directors of the Illinois Osteopathic Medical Society. It is our pleasure to feature his blog and LifeMine this week.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Walking Sticks, Not Just For Hiking

Living in the Rockies, we may be more aware of walking sticks, hiking poles or staffs than many who live elsewhere. As hikers of trails, we have certainly seen our share, if not used them ourselves. Designed to enhance balance and stability, walking sticks make sense in many other situations, too. They are a whole lot cooler looking than the average cane! Most people chose a single walking staff, although there are those who swear by two. It’s a matter of comfort and ease of use. Experimenting is critical…and before you’re on your way up the fourteener!

The science behind the walking stick is fairly simple. It helps reduce stress and strain on the back and joints, especially knees and ankles, by reducing the amount of pressure placed on the foot with each step. Because you are leaning on the stick, the amount of weight falling on the foot shifts, creating a more comfortable stride. I actually have seen complex formulas explaining this. You can find them online if you love numbers.

You typically need some upper body strength to handle a walking stick, slightly more than using a cane; the arm takes on a more significant role. In fact, using hiking staffs can actually enhance upper body strength. Choosing the proper material for the walking stick is also critical. Hardwoods are preferred because of their durability; hickory is heavier, bamboo lighter and more appropriate for everyday use, as reported by many of our customers. The size of the staff depends on the individual using it. Most can be sized. Be sure there are a good six inches left above the elbow to allow for plenty of stick when maneuvering down hill.

Most walking sticks come with a shock absorber of some kind, often a rubber tip that can be replaced. You can also buy options, a compass on the top of the stick, for example, or grips, and a strap to wrap around the wrist to prevent slippage.

Try a walking stick when you are considering a hike in the hills, across the parking lot, or through the mall!

Tell us your hiking story!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

You're Never Too Old

It’s a tired cliché…And, then, there’s another story out there to prove it’s true!

On Saturday I heard the most remarkable story of Nola Ochs, age 95, who graduates next week with a B.S. in General Studies from Fort Hays State University in Kansas. Scott Simon from NPR interviewed her by telephone at her residence on campus.

She’s been taking classes for years, having started in the 70s with a tennis class. She moved on to agribusiness, history and writing. She says she has a laptop, has written over 100 papers, and loves bringing history alive for her classmates with her stories and memories of the last 80 or so years.

This is the story of someone insisting on staying mentally fit for as long as she can. Talk about brain fitness!

She reminds me of many of our customers who bring bravado and imagination to life as they age. This kind of person stays focused on the moment and what is possible. You can hear the spunk in Nola’s voice. Like our customer, Exie, who weaves despite her challenges with macular degeneration. In fact, Exie is always on the hunt for the tool that will help her stay connected to the yarn. She keeps us on ours toes looking for new low vision aids.

Nola’s story took an otherwise ordinary day for me to another plane. I’m thinking about it still and hoping I will be as bold as to grab life always with such verve. I wish I could be there that day when she walks on stage arm-in-arm with her granddaughter, who is also graduating with her bachelor’s degree.

“What do you want to do with that degree, Mrs. Ochs?” asked Scott Simon. “I’m applying for a job as a storyteller on a cruise ship!”

Darn. I was hoping we could hire her!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Calling for Blogs on Sleep

Sleep is a very hot topic these days. Newspapers, magazines, talk shows, books. What do you have to say about sleep? Or lack of it? What kinds of remedies do you use? How do you cope with fatigue if you’re not sleeping? Who’s out there with great treatments for sleep disorders? If you, or someone you know, have something to say on this topic, email us. You can put your ideas in the body of the email or attach a Word file. We’ll gather all the ideas up for a later issue of the newsletter. We’ll have some featured guest bloggers on the topic, too.

Monday, May 7, 2007

The Caregiving Conundrum

I mentioned last week that I was presenting on Friday, May 4th at the Catch Your Breath conference sponsored by the American Lung Association. What a day it was! With nearly two dozen seminars to choose from, attendees had their challenge in choosing. At my session on The Caregiving Conundrum, we faced the reality of “when” not “whether” each of us, particularly women, will become a caregiver. One woman in the session talked about her situation which mirrored my own a while back. As the only female child among brothers, she and the whole family have simply assumed she will be the one to manage the dynamics of an aging parent. Luckily, she is studying the options now before her mother’s decline makes the options fewer.

Another woman has a family member recovering from a head injury. We discussed the options for mild brain trauma, sharing resources such as the Brain Fitness program and various neurological treatment centers throughout the greater Metro area. I am planning to find out more about the Colorado Neurological Institute in Fort Collins this week as a result of that conversation.

We discussed ways to assess whether a loss of independence of a loved one is temporary or permanent, using experts and an array of products to help reintroduce independence into the person’s life. I also prepared an extensive list of free community resources designed to help caregivers. If you would like a copy of this list, please email me and I will send it off to you.

Among the other presentations, you can guess that the Chocolate Therapist was a popular session. With free tastings, people were buzzing all afternoon. Julie Pech, author of The Chocolate Therapist, says “Go dark!” She also says to have a daily intake of one to two ounces of dark chocolate a day! But it’s not just any chocolate. She recommends looking for brands that have the percentage of cocoa labeled on the package. Go for those that have at least 55%. We are in discussions with Julie about carrying her book and some of the chocolate she sells. A portion of every book sold goes to the Dragyn Foundation, created to benefit underprivileged children around the world. Stay tuned. When we have these products available, we’ll highlight them.

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance was there, too, offering the opportunity to move and breathe. The year-round dance school serves approximately 350 full-time equivalent students from age 3 and up. More than 35% of the student body is subsidized through needs-based scholarships. In 1999, Cleo Dance became an affiliate of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

The keynote was Mary LoVerde, Life Balance Expert and author of several books, including I Used To Have A Handle On Life, But It Broke. She offered powerful examples of connecting, the antidote to too much multitasking. Her humor and understanding of the dilemma modern achievers face had most of us either laughing or crying, often a bit of both. Among her many suggestions of practical things we can all do to stay connected with those we love and like in life, in spite of our long hours and demanding responsibilities, is the use of memory cards. She offered a personal example. When her father retired from his job, she sent memory cards (e.g., slips of paper, 3x5 cards, or beautifully designed ones that she sells) to all the people he worked with, family and others. As she collected them, the story of his contributions emerged. He was touched and delighted to recall so many of the big – and small – gestures that had an impact on those around him.

Long before hearing Mary speak – nearly ten years ago – I was inspired to place a “memory” jar at the funeral services for my brother who had succumbed to cancer very quickly. I left slips of paper near by and invited everyone who passed through paying their respects to write a memory about Bob. What a tribute! Every so often I pull out that jar and enjoy those memories, and him, all over again.

The weekend was full of focus on caregiving and independence, it seemed. The Caregiver’s Pampering Day at the Westin on Saturday provided the chance to many local caregivers to relax and be doted on. “I feel renewed and refreshed and ready to jump back in,” one happy participant noted. If you missed that one, there is another planned by the Life Quality Institute, affiliated with Denver Hospice Care, on June 7, 2007. For more information on this one, please email Jane Barton at If you are in a caregiver role, please take care of yourself.

Give us your ideas of some things you have tried in your pursuit of balance and health. Please post your comments.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Bragging Blog

One of the perks of writing your own blog is that every so often you get to brag about something that makes you very proud. In this case, I’m beaming about my niece, Kat Arbour. She is a coach at the University of Delaware for the skating team and was the recipient of the United States Olympic Committee's (USOC) “Doc” Counsilman Science Award on May 3 during the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Award luncheon in Washington, D.C. This award is given annually to a coach who uses scientific techniques and equipment as an integral part of his or her coaching methods, or has been innovative in the use of sports science.
Kat is a licensed physical therapist, a certified personal trainer, an off-ice strength and conditioning coach and a doctoral candidate in biomechanics and movement science. She gives us at Capabilities advice periodically, too, on products for fitness and strength training. She even helps us track down scientific reports on various types of products. I asked her once about inversion tables for one of our customers. She forwarded me the latest research on the topic that I passed along to our customer. It helped her make her decision more carefully.
I love being part of her life and I admire the incredible woman she has become. It’s great, too, that I have those memories of her as a toddler on skates, as a mischievous child who sometimes got herself into big trouble, and always as someone curious and inventive. Congratulations, Kat. You make me proud!
You can read more about Kat in the University Of Delaware Daily.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Mothers' Day Ideas

  • Joe from Arvada: Caren Cucumber Rejuvenating Lotions Gift Set
  • Sue from Westminster: Warm Whiskers Lamb Hot Pack and Bunny Eye Soother Pack
  • Kathy from Lafayette: Buddha Board
  • Steve from Denver: Magnetic Jewelry and a Large Faced Watch
  • Bill & Theresa from Westminster: Stairlift installed in their home; she’ll be moving in with them this month
  • George from Boulder: Reclining Lift Chair for his Grandmother
  • Kristy from Denver: Mobile Art handpainted cane for her aunt
  • Paul & Ellen from Colorado Springs: Three-wheeled Scooter for Mom in Assisted Living Residence
We have also seen our share of very practical gifts this week. One family is installing grab bars in Mother’s bathroom. They bought a yellow bath bench and a tub bar as well.

The gift of comfort is big for Boomer Moms, pillows and cushions, for example, or herbal teas and bath salts in a basket with a gift certificate.

What are your ideas? Is there something you wish we carried at Capabilities? Email us. We are always on the look out for both the unique and practical.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Celebrate National Nurses' Week

Capabilities honors nurses and the incredible contribution they make every day to the lives of millions across this country! Thank you for your service and commitment! We have the pleasure of interacting with health care professionals in our business. Our admiration and appreciation of the skills, knowledge and caring grows daily as we have more and more opportunity to hear about the impact nurses have on the lives of our customers.

I have my own memory of a particularly wonderful nurse who made my first visit to the hospital when I was five more bearable. We lived close to the hospital, so one late afternoon my mother and I strolled over there to have my tonsils out. Of course, I was horrified and shocked to learn that I would have to spend the night. In those days it was discouraged from having mom sleep over. With quivering lip and despair, I waved goodbye as I climbed onto the examining table in the admitting area. Within minutes, a nurse arrived. She noticed right away that this was a situation that required TLC. First a lollipop, then crayons and a coloring book. (I must add that she then asked me to roll over so she could take my temperature. I looked at her as if she had spoken Latin and opened my mouth. “No, honey, I need you to roll over.”) In spite of that unpleasant event, I remember her still as a saving grace in that otherwise dreadful experience.

Since 1954, May 6 has been designated as National Nurses' Day. In 1974, International Nurses' Day, May 12, Florence Nightingale’s birthday, was added to the roster of annual events. And in 1990, the American Nursing Association designated May 6 – 12 as National Nurses' Week to celebrate the important contributions nurses make every day of the year.

There are 2.9 million registered nurses in the U.S. And yet, with the aging of the population, including the nursing population, and the lack of nursing educators, a shortage of nearly one million nurses is expected by the end of the decade. On the other hand, the nursing profession is among the fastest growing currently.

Studies show without dispute that facilities with high nurse to patient ratios also boast fewer deaths, faster recovery times, and high ratings of satisfaction on the part of patients and their families.

Do you have a story about a nurse who made all the difference? Please tell us about it by clicking the Comments link below.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

One Story: Helping in the Search for Assisted Living

This week’s Guest Blogger is Michelle Clopton-Davis who trained and worked as an RN during her career. It is fitting that we feature someone trained as a nursing professional this week as it is National Nurses Week. See our separate tribute to nurses blog. Michelle also developed skills in marketing and business development through her various positions within the health care community. In 2001 she started her own business, Assisted Living Referral and Placement Service. As a healthcare consultant, Michelle works with families to help them through the difficult assessment of when to provide alternatives to living at home for their loved ones. Michelle writes about one of those stories in her blog today. You can see more information about her business at

I introduced Assisted Living Homes to the community in 2001 as a service free to families and individuals who may be seeking information and direction for alternative living to nursing homes and large assisted-living communities. I work as a referral/placement service to over 90 homes from Brighton/Arvada/Boulder to Colorado Springs that offer assisted living care in a residential setting. My goal is to help families and individuals process the option of residing in this setting whether it is short-term, respite, long-term, or for hospice care. I also try to increase the awareness of the home-like setting for assisted living care throughout Colorado. Here’s the story of just one of the families I have had the privilege of working with in our community.

When Ms. Judy took on the task of finding an alternative living for her mother, she had no idea where to begin. Ms. Judy asked to remain anonymous. She is the daughter of an 88-year-old lady who had recently injured her right wrist. Her mother needed assistance with activities of daily living – all those everyday things for grooming, eating, communicating that most of us take for granted – and was also having symptoms of short-term memory loss. Although Judy’s mother was pleasant, robust, charming, and kind, she needed supervision and could no longer reside in a traditional assisted living community. One major concern was that Judy’s mother had fallen 3 times in a year and now required stand by assistance with walking.

Ms. Judy contacted Assisted Living Homes and was surprised at the “helpful service” that was offered to her for FREE. She found Assisted Living Homes to be “helpful at a critical time” and a “life preserver”.
When Ms. Judy called Assisted Living Homes, she acknowledged her challenge in trying to locate another home for her mother that could provide her mother’s care needs and that was convenient for her to visit. Because of our extensive reach into Colorado communities from north to south, we were able to find just the right place with the right level of care that Ms. Judy’s mother required. We found a small home with very personalized care. The ability to provide one-on-one care is common in small assisted living homes. Ms. Judy’s mother has now resided in a small residential assisted living home for almost 4 months and she is very pleased with the care and setting. Assisted Living Homes was beneficial to her finding a place for her mother, “especially at a time of pressure and scrambling,” said Ms. Judy. “When individuals can no longer stay in their own homes or a traditional assisted living setting, your service is so needed.”

Assisted Living Homes represents over 95 small assisted living facilities that offer assisted living care in a residential setting. These homes are an alternative to large assisted living communities and nursing homes. The homes represented by Assisted Living Homes are licensed by the state of Colorado and regulated by the Colorado Department of Health to provide assisted living care. Assisted Living Homes works with families and individuals to introduce, assess, guide, and establish residency in this philosophy of care.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Women are hot! It’s a known fact. But, before I get into trouble, let me clarify. I mean hot as in interesting, unusual, appealing, electrifying, marked by intensity of emotion, fiery. Okay, and sexy, too. I also mean just plain hot, sizzling, as in temperature. It used to be taboo to speak about the transition in women’s lives known as menopause. While our mothers probably did not speak much about it, and theirs certainly did not, I find some, at least, are willing to share a knowing nod about it now as those of us at this stage fan ourselves, peel off layers, try to act cool even in the midst of an inferno.

Have you noticed, though, that there is an awful lot of acknowledging going on about this stage of life? And some of it with humor and those “knowing looks?” Fun stuff, too? Have you seen “Menoplause: The Musical” yet? It was so fun watching women of all ages, especially those of a “certain age,” laugh out loud at the many familiar moments we have finessed our way through over the ages, instead of feeling alone and crazy. What a relief!

We’ve already talked before about how happy we were to discover “Hotflash! The Menopause Game,” designed to provoke laughter, conversation and discovery about little known facts about women.

And then there’s the “Chillow,” an insert for your pillow that you fill with water. It has a gel-like substance inside designed to keep your pillow cool while you sleep. If you have ever had a hotflash (or a fever or if you are someone, woman or man, who flips the pillow all night), this item is a treat. “Too cool for words,” says one of our customers, loyal to the Chillow.

Oh, yes, menopause still has its serious moments. I know lots of women experiencing physical and sometimes psychological changes that have the power to transform some their lives in ways that are unpleasant, even worrisome. One web site lists 35 symptoms that can suggest the onset of menopause, including feelings of dread and doom, memory lapses, and sudden bouts of bloat. And with the aging of Baby Boomers now well underway, thousands of women enter this stage every day.

Lucky for us, though, the taboo is broken. There are countless websites, books and resources suggesting potential solutions to the discomforts and other impacts of menopause.

How many of you out there are cursing right now as the flames shoot through your body? What are you doing to find relief? And how are the people in your lives handling your transition? Are there books or websites you have found helpful? Be sure to post your comments on this hot topic.

Staying cool definitely keeps women hot!

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Catch Your Breath!

What a good idea! We all run around in so many directions, it’s a good thing to be reminded to take a moment, breathe, enjoy. The American Lung Association spends a lot of time helping people take a breath in other ways. One of the most unique contributions every year is hosting a conference entitled, Catch Your Breath, here in Denver. It’s designed primarily with women in mind, providing a change to re-focus, re-center and give attention to themselves.

The agenda is filled with interesting topics and women. I’ll be offering a session on caregiving, for example. The statistics are amazing! There are over 50 million caregivers in the U.S. and 75% of all caregivers are women. Of that number, 60% are women between the ages of 38 and 68 (most in 40s and 50s). It won’t surprise you to learn that 85% of this group works outside the home. The Caregiving Conundrum, I call it. Women in the sandwich generation get caught between caring for parents, children and sometimes grandchildren. I’ll provide some tools and resources for addressing this conundrum. Next week I’ll tell you more about the session and share some specifics.

I’ll also have a little time to check into a few of the sessions for myself. I have my eye on one called The Chocolate Therapist. I’ll make some notes and share them later.

Post your thoughts on how you catch your breath in the midst of a hectic life!

If you are in need of some R & R, there is still time to register for the event. It’s Friday, May 4th. Details are at