Friday, August 31, 2007

Osteoporosis and Me

We mentioned a while ago that Pam is living with osteoporosis in her back. She tells us this week more about what it has been like, having chronic pain, trying various treatments, and finding recently some alternative techniques that might help her cope at least, and, at best, find relief in more lasting way.

As we mentioned in a prior article, I have been recently diagnosed with osteoporosis. I have lived with chronic back pain for 3 years with no real diagnosis other than “You have a little arthritis.” I was actually thrilled when the MRI revealed osteoporosis, not because I love having that, but because finally, I could deal with a real condition! My first step with my physician, Dr.Nancy Hooyman at Paradigm, was to start taking Boniva, the medication that my favorite actress, Sally Fields, is always touting. Unfortunately, Sally and I differ on the effects.

Boniva is taken only once a month, first thing in the morning. This is supposed to be one of its advantages over other therapies. You are directed to stay upright for 60 minutes with nothing to drink or eat. That means no coffee!! I already had misgivings. The first time I took the medication, I felt fine until about 7 pm Then, quite suddenly, I realized that I felt exactly like I had a major case of the flu! I ached. I had a fever and chills all night. The second night after the medication I again had a mild case of flu like symptoms. I hung in for 3 months with the same symptoms before deciding to try another medication to rebuild my bones.

Next, I will probably try Actonel or another weekly medication. It will take one or two years before I will see any increase in my bone density, so I know I need to do other modalities to strengthen my bones and my body to avoid further damage. The hardest part for me is that I should not lift things over five pounds. But, with five grandchildren who all weigh at least 20 pounds, telling me not to pick up and hug my babies is impossible. Right now, I try to be judicious. I don’t carry them around, but I still pick them up and pay the pain price later.

I’ve still been looking for other resources for me and my pain, now a close “friend.” This week Capabilities took part in the Beyond Pain Symposium hosted by Progressive Healthcare Center, non-profit providing alternative medicine, such as acupuncture, hypnotherapy, massage, neurokenetics and other modalities. Capabilities sponsored and exhibited at the event held at the Denver Athletic Club on Saturday, August 25. I was able to attend several of the sessions on alternative medicine and pain control. The first session on neck and shoulder pain provided a number of excellent exercises, many of which have their roots in yoga. I felt some relief in my neck and shoulder pain. Masami Griesy, a registered yoga teacher, started with breathing and opening the rib cage rather than just jumping into neck exercises. Her examples of how we walk, sit, drive were graphic and illustrative of the stress we all experience daily. I now have a clear idea of how to sit, stand, and breathe to at least begin the healing process. My goal is to try to just do the simple techniques I learned to help ease some of the tension I carry in my neck.

The second session I attended was inspirational! Bob Gaas, author of NeuroKenetics NeuroKenetics for Low Back and Knees, spoke at length about the problems with traditional exercise, stretching, and healing. He then showed us organically what neurokenetics is all about. It is essentially about healing the scarring that we have in our muscles because of the stress and strain we experience. Bob had us lie on the floor on rolled blankets and simply move our hips from one side, dropping them to the floor, while keeping our knees pointed to the ceiling. I say simply, but when one of his assistants held my knees still, I couldn’t move. The theory is that our bodies keep our muscles taut to protect the injured area and what we need to do is be able to totally relax the muscles in order to allow them to heal. After the exercise of trying to allow one hip to drop to the floor, we were told to lie on the floor. Bob then led us through a series of movements, very slightly from one point to another, over and over again, first one then to another point. The whole idea was to trick the body and the muscles in order to relax. We then went onto the blanket rolls again and lo and behold, it was easier to actually drop the hip! I left the hour long session feeling no pain. I actually had about 4 hours of relief before my back began to feel tight and pained again. My goal now is to work with Bob and see how much I can heal myself, concentrating on my back, neck and shoulders, before I look at more invasive procedures for my osteoporosis. I continue to work as hard as ever but living with chronic pain is truly different. I’m hoping that by concentrating more on body work, I’ll at least be able to ease some of the restrictions I now put on myself. The entire day of events aimed at pain control was eye opening for me.

I learned new techniques and new avenues of help for problems I thought were unfixable! I even went to Red Rocks for the Beatles (ok, they are the imitators!) concert and enjoyed, rather than suffered, as I sat in the amphitheater!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Poem Pick

We are ever amazed and (almost) always open to the ideas that come our way. A while back we had some suggestions about adding a place on our website for people to post poems, their own or favorites. The reasoning went something like this. Your website offers all kinds of resources for health, comfort and being unlimited. Poetry is timeless in its ability to transcend the day to day, even while praising it often. Being a writer, and someone who loves poetry, I jumped all over the idea. But since poetry is not our business, we wondered why we might put a poetry corner on our website. Wouldn’t it just be out of place?

Time passed. It’s come up again, and this time we decided to try it out. There is a hidden poet in many of us. And if we don’t dabble at it ourselves, we might enjoy how a good poem makes us feel. If you just plain hate poetry, you might want to tell us about it…in verse. So, here is my poem pick for this week.

This week's poetry pick.

Post yours and mention why you like it so much.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Let’s Hear It For All Us Working Folks

The first official celebration of Labor Day was in 1882 in New York City. There is still controversy about who actually proposed having a day in the year singled out to celebrate all working people in the country. There was one Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. He is quoted as urging the day to celebrate those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

Some records say, however, that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, founded the holiday. He later became the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., and is said to have proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The idea caught on and soon parades and a day off work became the major vehicles for celebrating. It’s curious now, however, with so many businesses offering products and services 365 days a year, and with the ubiquity of the Internet, that many people who deserve a day off and who deserve some celebrating, work away even on Labor Day.

Work is the topic of so much discussion since most of us spend the vast percentage of our lives working, most for other people. We see in our business some of the physical effects of work. Injuries on the job, for example, change people’s lives. We worked with someone a few months ago who suffered such major back injury, she can barely walk. We helped her find the right back support as she transitioned from the molded one she had to wear for three months following the injury. The transition was scary to her. As she tried on various braces, she told us she felt like she might fall, or snap in half, so afraid was she without the stiffness of the specialized support she had been wearing. Her doctors and therapists, however, told her it was time to transition or she would become so rigid she would eventually lose all mobility. We researched dozens of types and finally she agreed to one that has since served her well. She is another one of the brave ones we meet every day who face their challenges head on, even when what they really want to do is run away and hide.

We also find that repetitive stress injuries (e.g., carpel tunnel, tennis elbow or epicondylitis) are more and more frequent as computers, personal data assistants (PDAs), cell phones and text messaging flood our lives. I heard a teenager interviewed on the radio the other day who sends 150,000 text messages a day or something like 12,000 an hour (assuming 12 hours of activity). Yipes! How on earth did we get to that point? Imagine if such behaviors continue. Future humans will have thumbs the size of Texas!

So, let’s hear it for workers this Labor Day. Celebrate…and if you are out shopping, please be sure to say thank you to those who will be working that day.

Tell us your work story. What you love about your work, what you really just don’t like. If you’re retired already, or have some alternative working path, we’d like to hear about that, too. You comments are always welcomed.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Multiple Sclerosis: Traditional and Alternative Treatments and Research, Part III

In Part III of our series on MS, we look at what’s been going on in the world of research and treatments. Always work with your physician and other practitioners before embarking on a new regime. As we talk to folks with MS, it is clear that because the way this disease affects each individual, it is difficult to say for certain which therapies will help. Everyone seems to agree, though, that the basics that apply to health in general, apply when you have MS, too. Eat well, sleep, exercise, do what it takes to stay on top of stress.

What is also clear from our intensive review of MS over these past weeks is that treatments can include medications, chemotherapy or even a new MRI devoted to neurological imaging. There are a host of approved drugs for multiple sclerosis. Many physicians prescribe steroid medications to patients with MS to reduce the inflammation of the nerve tissue. According so some reports, chemotherapy can be used as a treatment for certain patients as a way to interfere with the immune system that is attacking itself.

Research on multiple sclerosis continues at a strong pace, as the incidences of new cases remain steady in the U.S. One interesting development we read about is the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for the neurological imaging of the disease. As the disease is mapped with more and more accuracy in an individual, science can help unravel and possibly predict with greater confidence where symptoms might appear next, giving patients and physicians a leg up in anticipating treatments that could mitigate those symptoms. These techniques can also measure MS lesions and damaged areas to determine if they are growing and at what pace.
Other developments around the country include looking for markers, trace elements in the blood that indicate multiple sclerosis is becoming active. Discovering the marker in a common blood test will enable physicians to diagnose and treat the disease in its earliest stages.
Researchers are now testing oral versions of the medications that typically exist in the form of self-injections, which are difficult to sustain over time. If proven to be effective, these oral alternatives will make it easier for patients to take their medicine, increasing the odds of successful treatment.

Researchers will be conducting upcoming trials on medications designed to control the malfunctioning T-cells that attack the covering of the nerve fibers resulting in multiple sclerosis. Medications that can control the T-cells will stop the development of the disease.
On the alternative treatments front, there is also plenty of interesting research and practice. Naturopathic physicians may use a variety of therapeutic modalities ranging from conventional drug therapy to diet and nutrition, homeopathy, physical medicine, acupuncture, and the use of plants or botanical medicine while treating the whole person, not necessarily the "disease".
Dr Thomas Kruzel, a naturopathic physician, writes extensively about these areas. Diet, he writes, is “one of the cornerstones of treatment for multiple sclerosis.” He talks about Roy Swank M. D. and how his research shows that diets low in fats cause the illness to go into remission and the symptoms to diminish. The research also shows that for patients following this diet have lower disease progression rates than those who do not. He asserts that many patients are able to lead normal lives with just dietary changes alone. For more on the Swank Diet go to

Homeopathy is another alternative that many with multiple sclerosis follow. It is not necessary to have a diagnosis in order to prescribe homeopathic medicine. It is the symptom pattern presented by the patient that is most significant, as symptoms are seen as a way that the body is trying to heal itself. Symptoms are manifestations of the disease. Everyone who has MS has some cluster of symptoms in common, but because everyone is also a unique individual, many have unique symptoms.

Herbal treatments also work with symptoms rather than a named disease. Medicines derived from plants and herbs are considered less toxic to the body and therefore can help alleviate symptoms without creating new ones.

Hydrotherapy is an ancient form of therapy that faded away for some period of time. It is being revived by naturopathic physicians as a means to oxygenate the blood, increasing circulation to tissues, the brain and essential parts of the body. Hydrotherapy also increases white blood cell count which is needed for healing to occur. With the use of hot and cold applications of water, this process also enhances repair of tissue damaged by the disease, helping to reverse the damage to the delicate tissues. Lastly, hydrotherapy increases the rate of cellular metabolism, creating more optimal functioning.

Acupuncture is more well-known as a treatment in many parts of the U.S. than some of the above alternatives. It stimulates the body own healing processes through the insertion of slender needles into key points on the body. It is often used in conjunction with some of the above therapies.

There are naturopathic physicians practicing in every state, although only a handful of states license them. At Capabilities, we have trusted referrals in Colorado for traditional and alternative practitioners. Please contact us for more information on these resources.

Tell us what treatments are working for you or a loved one with MS. Sharing experiences makes things more manageable for many with this and other conditions. Your comments might inspire someone to investigate something new that might just work.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dining in the Dark

Pam and I had a most amazing experience on Thursday night last week. We were invited to join the American Council for the Blind in their annual fundraising event, Dining in the Dark. It was held at a local Denver restaurant, Dazzle, in two sittings. We arrived shortly before 7 p.m. for our sitting and were led behind heavy curtains, designed to keep light from pouring into the main dining room. With only the glare of the Exit signs and the intermittent shaft of light from wait staff going in and out the swinging kitchen doors, we sat and experienced dining in the dark.

We joined Richard Faubion, Director of Development for the Foundation Fighting Blindness, and his wife at a table for four. Richard, who has retinitis pigmentosa, and generally has a very small field of vision, exclaimed that he had none in this darkness. He did give us tips, though, on how to locate the usual things on a dining table, using analog clock directions, such as “bread is at 12 o’clock,” “butter at 2.” Despite our attempts to carry on a regular conversation, we kept coming back to how disorienting was this experience for us. In his typical “glass half full” way, Richard simply said, “You figure it out,” and he proceeded to give us more tips. “Use bread to help gather the food on your fork.” Oh, and don’t be afraid to use your fingers! I thought of a new use for the food guard. It’s a simple half-ring of plastic that clips onto the plate to form a barrier so food will not spill out as someone pushes utensils across the plate. It is useful for those with limited mobility due to arthritis, paralysis, aging hands, or who have the use of only one hand. We sell a lot to parents for use with kids, especially those with some developmental and physical challenges. And now, for dining in the dark!!

I did find eating in darkness to be quite different. I had some trouble distinguishing tastes. We all spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what kind of sauce was on the salmon. Richard guessed cherry. It turned out to be close, lindenberry. It was texture I relied on more, I found. Potatoes did not have a distinctive flavor, but they were softer than the mélange of vegetables on the plate. Broccoli stood out in flavor. The sauce helped me find the salmon, but overall I found the meal a lot less satisfying. I recently read that as sighted people age and as their sight diminishes, they almost always eat less. Or gravitate towards foods that have higher levels of sugar or salt as a means to actually taste something. I know this was so as my mother aged. Once a hearty eater, she barely nibbled in her 90s.

We asked our waiter if he had ever had this experience of serving in the dark. He shook his head. We said we needed an answer since we could not see him. We all laughed at how much we take for granted. He and his colleagues did very well making their way around the dining room, orienting everyone to the positioning of their plates and the food on those plates.

Henry Butler entertained the crowd with his virtuoso piano performance. Henry is blind from infancy. (More on him below.) This guy was hot! For most of the performance spotlights shone on him. I closed my eyes, though, to listen without seeing his hands slide along the keyboard. I felt the vibrations of the music on the floor and in the room more powerfully than when I opened my eyes. I definitely heard the music differently. Towards the end of his nearly two hour performance, management turned off all the spotlights and we all sat in total darkness listening to Henry. I found myself curiously attentive to what was happening inside of me, realizing how much I depend on vision to take in a whole experience, to synthesize it, to be fully a part of it. Henry is truly a genius. The room was electric.

What an evening! I felt so grateful when the lights came on. The American Council for the Blind (and many other organizations for the blind that have organized similar experiences) is genius, too. It is so important that we find ways to stretch beyond our own experiences of the day-to-day. While those few hours cannot be compared to a lifetime of blindness or to the demands of adjusting to diminished vision because of disease or injury, they certainly gave me the opportunity to “see” beyond my own frame of reference, to witness my own limits, to learn for a night how to dine in the dark.

If you have not previously supported organizations for the blind, please consider participating in the Foundation Fighting Blindness Vision Walk on September 29, 2007 here in Denver. If you are not from the Metro Denver area, you can check here for vision walks in your location. FFB focuses on research for fighting blindness that changes people’s lives everyday.

Please be sure to visit Capabilities, too, for a wide selection of low vision products. We are still building our low vision selection on our website, so please call us if you outside the Denver region or are unable to visit our location. We can work with you on the phone and help you find the products you need wherever you are.

Henry Butler was born in New Orleans and has been blind since infancy. At age seven he joined the glee club at the Louisiana School for the Blind, where he was already studying piano. He was performing professionally by the time he was 14, and studied voice in high school. His career continued, leading him through college and Michigan State University where he received a master’s degree. By 1980, he had earned a national reputation as one of the jazz’s most gifted and versatile soloists. He continues to impress critics, fans and fellow musicians with his prodigious talents. He has been saluted as, "the pride of New Orleans and visionistical down-home cat and hellified piano plunker to boot." Butler's house and everything in it was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He has just bought a home in Denver.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Who Gets Multiple Sclerosis? Part II Living with MS

Anyone may develop MS, but as with many diseases there are some patterns. While there are a host of interesting facts to consider about which type of person typically gets this disease, researchers claim mixture of ethnicity and geography impact on the genetic makeup of an individual, coalescing to make “the perfect storm.”

Age does seem to matter generally with MS. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50. There are, of course, exceptions, but statistically more women than men get MS, almost three times as many, suggesting hormones perhaps play a part in the emergence of MS.

Studies also indicate that genetic factors make certain individuals more susceptible than others, but there is no evidence that MS is directly inherited. In fact studies on identical twins show the same evidence of other familial relationship. About one in four members of the same family have MS. By 1996, as many as 20 locations in DNA that may contain genes contributing to MS were identified, but no single gene was shown to have a major influence on susceptibility to MS. Research will likely find that other, as yet unidentified genes, contribute to MS, reports the National MS Society.

Another striking fact that has emerged from research on MS is that it occurs more commonly among those with northern European heritage, Caucasians living above 40 degrees latitude away from the equator. Interestingly, however, MS is virtually non-existent among populations of Inuit, Norwegian Lapps, Australian Aborigines, for example. That does not mean, however, that people with African, Asian, and Hispanic ancestry are immune to this disease. Approximately 400,000 Americans acknowledge having MS, and every week about 200 people are diagnosed. Worldwide, MS may affect 2.5 million individuals.
Scientists have long been searching for an infectious agent triggering MS. The National MS Society reports that “while many different viruses have been suggested, including rabies, herpes simplex virus, measles, corona virus, canine distemper virus, HTLV-1, Epstein-Barr virus, among others, none has yet been confirmed.” They go on to say that, “chlamydia pneumoniae, a bacterial agent, has also been suggested but never proven.” Although no trigger has yet been identified, most experts on this disease believe that some infectious agent is involved in initiating the disease process. Research continues following these important hypotheses.

We hear stories from people with MS and their families nearly every day. Recently, a customer who has had the disease 25 years found Capabilities and spent a couple of hours shopping for tools to help with everyday things. She told us about her brother who was just diagnosed a couple of years ago, but whose condition has already worsened far more significantly than her own. She is planning for ways to help him stay independent as she shores up her own life.

Tell us your story. Share your ideas about the roots of MS in your family, tips for coping with the disease and tools you use that are helpful for staying mobile and independent. You can send us an email or post your comments below.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Magical Thinking

Are you a Harry Potter fan? If so, this summer has been a Harry Potter extravaganza with a new movie and the release of last book in the series of the boy wizard’s life and tribulations. I saw the movie last weekend and am in the midst of reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Pam took grandson, Arley, this weekend. We found ourselves talking quite a bit about why this tale is so successful and not just with kids. Here are some of our musings.

“People want to believe,” Pam says. “The unexplained intrigues us. I get lost instantly in the tales of magic and the ability to transform everyday life and activities.” I have to agree that the appeal for me is about this universal (or so it seems to me) attraction to power, to control over ourselves and our environments. I don’t mean this in a domineering and negative way, of course, but at a fundamentally human level. We want to create reality to suit us, to alter it if need be to fit our sense of what should happen. Magical thinking has been around for all time. Psychologists emphasize that we can create our own reality with positive thought (and hard work, the pragmatists add). Harry Potter is emblematic of just how hard that is as he tries to conjure a patronus to protect him in times of danger, or avoid the burning mind meld with Voldemort. How many times have we all had to fight the demons that derail us?

Pam reflects on the fine line between believing in magic and the power to transform the day-to-day and religion. “They’re different,” she says. “Many religions call on belief in a higher power who can (but sometimes does not) influence the course of events, while reading a book like Harry Potter suggests the power we each have to influence the moment or history.” In the Sunday paper I read an article about the “CEO factor,” the term some researchers use after studying how people in management positions overwhelmingly feel they are invaluable and are doing a great job. The higher up one is in an organization the stronger this belief. “It is a must,” the article says. It’s what gets people up in the morning and able to perform, this belief that we make a difference, that we are essentially good and can alter the course of events.

J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, captures, too, the human struggle of good and evil, populating her books with those who use their powers maliciously, wreaking havoc on order and the general good. I like the exaggeration of those battles, the stark contrasts that remind me of just how strong we have to be in our lives as we come against witches, wizards and elves whose intentions are not for bringing goodwill to all. Our daily battles, though, are usually against situations that are not so starkly cast, causing us sometimes to blur our vision, to engage in magical thinking of a different order, to believe everything will work out okay if we just ignore what’s happening.

I like thinking about all the ways the wizarding world gets around. They so cleverly use whatever means they can to get around, walking through pillars in the train station; using objects or events as portals to pass through, or portkeys, as they call them; traveling up chimney flues; and in the latest book, flushing themselves into the Ministry of Magic. Since we work with people all the time on the subject of mobility, we fantasize about how wonderful it would be to utilize some of these more magical means. On the other hand, we are so impressed always with the innovations that continue to appear. The RollerAid (the subject of earlier commentary in these pages) is a great example of innovation. Creating a resting place for your knee to elevate the injured foot or ankle while you push with the good foot provides a great alternative to crutches. In fact, we are hosting a new products showcase in September. Please be sure to check our Events section if you would like to participate as a tester for that event. Help Pam and me choose what new products we will carry.

It seems clear to both Pam and me that Harry Potter resonates with so many of us, regardless of culture, age, ability. It’s about magical thinking, about the power we must believe we have to face life in its most raw, worrying, unexpected, and beautiful ways. “I’m 62 and I believe,” Pam says finally with a twinkle in her eye.

Have you read Harry Potter or seen the movies? Tell us some of your thoughts and the parts you have liked best. Please don’t reveal the ending of the new book, though, as many are still reading it or have not gotten to it yet. We might have to make you disapparate if you do.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


We are launching a new series to discuss some of the conditions that challenge people regardless of age or ability. We do a lot of research ourselves, as you know by now. We also feature experts and providers on all types of subjects, as well as useful products to help with a variety of situations. As we embark on our analysis of conditions, we are looking for another type of expert. You! As we witness every day at Capabilities, there are thousands of those living with illness, injury and the effects of aging, their own or with those they love. We want to tell your stories, your triumphs, your moments of doubt and even despair.

You can participate several ways. You can always post your comments at the end of a blog, email us your story or the name of someone you would like us to feature, call or visit us if you are in the Denver Metro area. We will keep you anonymous or not, depending on what you prefer. Local media asks us all the time about stories to share. We meet people every day who are heroes in their own ways and who know a thing from an insider’s perspective. You can write about the facts of a condition, about the tools that might help, and the resources you can find in the community to work with you and your family. Only you can tell us what you know. We hope you will join in our conversation.

Contact us here!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Treasure Hunt

We went to the Titanic exposition at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science this weekend. How incredible that after so many years at the bottom of the ocean, researchers and adventurers found a way to get inside and explore the artifacts of so many people’s lives. While many of the treasures on display are more about bits and pieces of the Titanic itself, there were poignant reminders that real people perished in that tragedy. It got us thinking about treasures and just how many of them we gather through a lifetime.

In fact, clutter has become big business. I read recently there is a $9 billion global home organization market, with the U.S. expected to reach $8 billion by 2009! The big question of course, is what is the difference between “treasures” and “clutter.” Like most things, it’s usually in the eye of the beholder. Why is it that we can pay money to go to a museum to see playing cards, wire-rimmed eyeglasses, and bone china tea cups retrieved from a sunken ship, and be impatient with our own parents or grandparents boxes full of the same things? As I reflect on the last years of life for parents, in-laws and tales of my friends facing similar situations, we all have some of the same reactions. The Baby Boomer son or daughter is eager to separate the wheat from the chaff, dump the junk and help mom or dad (usually mom) reduce the treasures to one or two boxes for easy handling.

So, last night I took a look at my room, at my closet and drawers, and wondered about some of the things I have been carting around for years. I tried to be the observer, the one who will poke through these things when I am not around, or can no longer do it. Why do I still have that Yoko Ono book of poetry (not all that good poetry besides)? Or that box of nubby colored pencils from the first art class I took when I finally overcame my scarring from sixth grade Catholic school teacher embarrassment of my stick figure drawings? I found again the box of my brother’s treasures that I carried away after his death, worried they would get thrown out some day? What will happen to them, I mused last night, when I’m not here to guard them?

We are fascinated by our own history, of course. The key, it seems, is how to become fascinated in someone else’s history, especially if we are a caregiver or someone now in a position to help another sort through it all. Surely, there is junk. There are countless findings from the Titanic that will never be shown because they are mere shards of glass or crushed metal beyond recognition. It’s the perfection of the tea cup that survived the disaster, the door of the safe that protected the jewels of the first class ladies from New York, the single pair of eyeglasses that stirs our curiosity and brings us to the museum.

Is there a way we can pull out some of the treasures, our own or those of our aging relative, or even our kids or grandkids, and create the story now before we are faced with deciding whether this thing is junk or treasure? There is an explosion of services emerging that feature videotaping, photographing, storytelling. We can hook you up with them if you like. Contact us for more information. You can also do this yourself. Ask mom to go through one box of treasures with you and listen to the story that lives still inside her when she picks up the cameo pin, the single rhinestone earring, the bottlecap from the RC soda can. Sometimes there truly are treasures there. When Pam did this with her mother a few years ago, she discovered her old collection of Beatle cards! She hasn’t gone on eBay yet. It might just be that one day her great-grandchildren will come upon those cards when they find her box of treasures.

Tell us about some of your treasures. If it’s written someplace, even in these comments, you can prove later just how important they were to you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Taking a Closer Look at Multiple Sclerosis, Part I

As the first in our series of web logs on various illnesses and conditions that change people’s lives, we set our sights on MS. The National Mulitple Sclerosis Society has a publication called Just The Facts. In it they summarize the key truths about MS. Here are a few of them:
  • MS is a chronic, unpredictable neurological disease that affects the central nervous system.
  • MS is not contagious and is not directly inherited.
  • Most people with MS have a normal or near-normal life expectancy.
  • The majority of people with MS do not become severely disabled.
  • There are now FDA-approved medications that have been shown to "modify" or slow down the underlying course of MS.
MS is thought to be an autoimmune disease, one where the body stops recognizing parts of itself as crucial for healthy functioning and instead identifies those parts as somehow endangering. In the case of MS, the disease attacks the myelin, a fatty tissue surrounding the nerves of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, optic nerves), designed to help conduct electrical impulses. When the myelin is damaged, it creates scarring or sclerosis, and loses its ability to transmit those electrical impulses to and from the brain successfully. This leads to the array of symptoms that can occur with MS, from problems with balance, to incontinence, to blurred vision, just to name a few. There are several types of MS that have been identified and it may happen that one type might move onto another course over time.

  • Relapsing-Remitting MS occurs with the most frequency, especially at time of initial diagnosis. Approximately 85% of cases reported are of this type. People with this type of MS experience clearly defined episodes or flare-ups (also called relapses, attacks, or exacerbations). These flare ups represent acute worsening of neurologic function and are often followed by partial or complete recovery periods (remissions) free of disease progression.
  • Primary-Progressive MS is relatively rare, approximately 10% of cases. People with this type of MS experience a slow but nearly continuously worsening condition from the onset, with no distinct relapse or remission periods. However, there are variations in rates of progression over time, occasional plateaus, and temporary minor improvements.
  • Secondary-Progressive MS affects nearly 50% of those with relapsing-remitting MS within 10 years of their initial diagnosis. Now that there is a plethora of drugs on the market designed to inhibit progression of the disease, there will be new clinical studies to understand whether this number reduces drastically. People with this type of MS experience an initial period of relapsing-remitting MS, followed by a steadily worsening disease course with or without occasional flare-ups, minor remissions, or plateaus.
  • Progressive-Relapsing MS is also relatively rare, affecting approximately 5% of those diagnosed with MS. People with this type of MS experience steadily worsening symptoms from the onset but also have clear acute relapses (attacks or exacerbations), with or without recovery. In contrast to relapsing-remitting MS, the periods between relapses are characterized by continuing disease progression.
In subsequent blogs, we will look at symptoms of MS, treatments and tools to help you live as independently as possible with MS. Please comment or contact us with your story about living with MS.

Monday, August 6, 2007

August Is...

Who on earth dreams up all those “National (fill in the blank) Month (or Day)” ideas? I did a quick search and found that August is Admit You're Happy Month, Family Fun Month, National Catfish Month (Have you ever tasted catfish? Tell us.), National Golf Month, Peach Month (as we well know here in Colorado!), Romance Awareness Month, Water Quality Month, National Picnic Month. We’ve already missed National Ice Cream Sandwich Day (2nd) and Wiggle Your Toes Day (6th), but we are not too late to rev up for Left-Handers’ Day (13th) or Frankenstein Day (20th).

On a more serious note, it’s also National Eye Exam Month. We wrote last week about low vision and just how much is out there now for vision rehabilitation. We featured Dr. Jennifer Tasca (pictured left) at our quarterly vision seminar. She stressed just how much individuality plays in treatments and rehab options. Many of the diseases that affect vision show up differently with individuals. It’s not uncommon, therefore, that one person with macular degeneration might respond well to a video reader that features an array of contrasting colors, while someone else may only be able to see black on white or white on black. This is cause for hope, she said, since the book is not definitively written on a particular disease and ways to cope with it. She also underscored how important eye exams are, regardless of age and ability. To identify conditions early is crucial in determining treatments and options.

Richard Faubion also attended our event. Richard plays a significant role with the Foundation Fighting Blindness. He outlined the significant research going on today with the help of FFB. He has retinitis pigmentosa. He demonstrated what that means in terms of his vision by holding out his arms out to his sides and progressively moving them together. He said he could not see them until they were exactly parallel in front of him and then he had to move them toward his face to get anything resembling clarity. And yet, he had notes at which he glanced every so often, written in large print with a 20/20 pen.

The audience, some of whom come regularly to our quarterly seminars on low vision, asked many questions and offered their own tips on how they cope with their changing vision. We also feature state-of-the-art equipment on display for people to experiment with after the seminar.

So, just a reminder in this month of celebrating all things weird and wonderful, get an eye exam! You can contact Dr. Jennifer Tasca at 303-665-7797 for a consultation. Richard Faubion can be reached at 303-799-1501. Please also sign up for the Vision Walk and help FFB raise money for more research.

By the way, August 18th is Bad Poetry Day. If you have a bad (or great) poem you would like to share, post it here!

Saturday, August 4, 2007


We have the best job in town! Every day we meet people who are looking for solutions to life’s challenges. And while the challenges are not pleasant and many stories are heartbreaking, we love being part of helping people figure out what’s out there to help keep them or their loved ones mobile and as independent as possible. We love, too, that more and more people are thinking about us when they’re looking for some relief for a temporary injury or illness, like a sprained ankle, or raging sunburn. I saw a teenager the other day having a ball roaming around the store trying things out. She spent about 20 minutes on the balance board! Of course, she did it perfectly well, unlike myself, who nearly falls off every time.

We have had a lot of interest lately in lifts for vans and cars. We can help you find which lifts are compatible with your current vehicle as well as which lift is best for your power operated vehicle or power wheelchair. Let’s take a closer look at some of the options out there for lifts.

You might need of something with a low profile and is easy to use for a manual wheelchair when you go shopping or visiting friends. It can be a big nuisance figuring out how to lift that wheelchair into your trunk. Manual wheelchairs can be bulky and awkward to maneuver. You might be tired of trying to stuff it into the back seat. Try the Caddy Wheelchair Carrier or the Hitchhiker (pictured) that attach easily to the back of your car. You fit the wheelchair in the spot designed for the wheels, lock it into place you’re ready to go. No lifting needed. This device keeps it protected, too.

If you have a scooter or power chair, you will want to consider the Silver Boom (pictured). It has a 300 pound lifting capacity and requires very little headroom (about 30 inches). It mounts inside your vehicle (fits most vans and SUVs) and operates with a remote, giving you flexibility and control when taking your power vehicle out into the world. We will help assess the type of fittings you need depending on the scooter or chair you have. We also do installations for those located in the Denver Metro area. As we open other locations, we will also have trained service professionals you can call on. If you are out of state, you can contact us anyway, and we’ll help you find out who is qualified to do the work in your area.

We’ve had a few customers who wanted the comfort and ease of simply driving their scooter or power chair onto a platform and having the whole platform lift into their full size van or minivan. If this sounds like you, check out the Backpacker lift. Its all-steel construction, one-piece platform construction keeps noise and movement to a minimum. It comes with a remote feature which gives you the ultimate in flexibility and control. For one of our customers, Roy (pictured), the combination of a full-sized scooter and the Backpacker made all the difference in getting him back out into the woods doing the things he loves, camping and fishing. He can also use the combination to do his weekly grocery shopping and the occasional splurge at the mall.

We love our work! Seeing the smile on Roy’s face as he drove his scooter onto the lift for the first time and watched it fit snugly into his van. He was on his way to a great vacation!

Thursday, August 2, 2007


Are you a gadget person? Do you love trying out new things? Have you been waiting for someone to ask your opinion about a new product? Now is your chance!

Capabilities hosts a Colorado inventors’ showcase in September as part of our big second anniversary celebration. We are looking for adventurous and opinionated consumers who want to learn about interesting new products and have some fun “judging” them. Owners Pam Pressel and Kathryn Arbour will take your advice into consideration as they make decisions about buying new products for their unique store.

Contact us if you are interested and we’ll fill you in on the details.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Rocky Mountain High

More news this week of a report on just how healthy residents of Colorado are. The Metro Denver Health and Wellness Commission released its study of 25 cities across the U.S. “Metro Denver took the top spot in a combined ranking, including obesity, eating habits, physical activity and health care coverage,” according to the article that appeared in the Denver Post this week.

You can’t read a paper or magazine these days without seeing a headline or article about health. During a recent visit with a relative in his late 80s, we got into this subject of health. He’s a very fit guy and always has been. “It’s from working and playing hard,” he says matter-of-factly. He has never set foot inside a gym. He also eats pretty smartly, too. “Everything in moderation,” he claims.

All the focus on health, including that of our business, keeps me wondering about the special sauce of health. Of course, it’s a combination of genetics and habits, environment and nature. But as the older gent who graced us with his presence earlier this year mused on moderation, I can’t get that thought out of my mind. What is moderation? How to measure it? We are in a time of excess and opulence, at least throughout much of our American culture. Is our definition of moderation the same as it might be through the eyes of this 88-year old? And should moderation be imposed? Encouraged only? Suggested, perhaps? Who decides?

What school of thought motivates your thinking about moderation, especially when it comes to matters of health and wellness. Are you of the Oscar Wilde opinion that “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.”

Or, does the conclusion of poet, A.R. Ammons better describe your perspective:

It just
goes to show you: moderation imposed is better
than no moderation at all.

How about the words of Thomas Paine, the English-born American writer during our own American Revolution era? Do these give a glimpse into your philosophy?

Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.

Give us your thoughts on moderation. Post a comment. Start a debate.