Monday, December 29, 2008

Diabetes: New Information

As a Denverite, I watched the Broncos - Chargers game on Sunday with all the hopes of a loyal fan. We do not need to dwell on the nasty outcome for our home team. I was struck, however, with the back story on Jay Cutler during the third quarter. Jay Cutler discovered earlier this year that he has Type I diabetes. Recurring symptoms finally led to the series of tests that gave him the verdict. Local papers covered the story at the time, underscoring that with his team of health professionals and rigorous schedule, he has every opportunity to tame the disease and continue to thrive as an athlete. Being an athlete, in fact, most likely helped him ward off the worst of the disease these many years. The sportscasters spoke about Cutler as a great role model for young people who have this disease. Developing discipline and focus is a challenge anyway as a teen and a young adult; it is essential when facing a life long condition like diabetes.

I know a family where one of the young boys has Type I diabetes. Diagnosed at the age of 7, he now, at 12, has integrated testing and eating routines into his every day life. His mom says, though, that at various junctions - like the one he is at now as he becomes a teenager -he runs into difficulty. As his hormonal levels change, and as his interests and abilities develop, he wrestles with the constraints his physical condition demands. So far, so good, says his mother, but he is getting old enough now to be "in charge" of his everyday without mom's watchful eyes. She believes he understands just how serious this disease is, and has a lot of faith in him. She still slips in helpful foods, for example, when he has his buddies over for a night of video games.

Today's news features a story about Type I diabetes, too. In a study outlined in the recent journal, Pediatrics, that followed 11 teenagers who had bariatrics surgery, evidence of remission of the disease occurred in all but one. Yes, the diabetes disappeared. Similar tests of teenagers with drug and diet therapies have not yielded these noteworthy results. While research continues on the overall impact of weight loss surgery, there are findings nearly every day that support many of its benefits.

I learned just the other day of a young man, age 21, with Type I diabetes. His sister-in-law came in looking for a cane for him. His denial of his condition has led to some severe outcomes. He has developed neuropathy in his legs and feet, resulting in swelling so serious he needs help walking. The family fears he may lose a limb at some point. He resists using mobility equipment of any type, and falls all the time. This family member was on the hunt for a "cool" cane, one that would have some of the panache of walking sticks of days gone by. We found a few -- one with a gold plated skull, or another with an 8-ball knob. The silver-plated eagle caught sister-in-law's eye. I asked a few questions about his stability. Canes with decorative tops often are not weight tested. The shapes of these decorative knobs makes support questionable. They, in fact, are like walking sticks of yesteryear, many of which were simply decorative and part of a costume of the times. We looked at interesting alternatives, including hiking sticks, a useful alternative to canes that have gotten a lot of attention more recently. We have written previous in this blog about walking sticks and how to choose one that is right for you.

Losing weight is a critical aspect of controlling diabetes. For those who face health complications, exacerbated by excess weight, the struggle to regain control is mighty. In my discussions with folks who have had weight loss surgery, many of whom struggle with diabetes, too, they discuss the feelings of hope and renewal they experienced almost immediately. Getting used to a different body and introducing new disciplines and structures in their lives takes time, they told me. Finding a network of supporters, including those who have had the surgery, provides nurturing and a sustaining environment. A local weight loss surgery group meets at Capabilities twice a month. See Events for details and contact information if you are interested in learning more about this group.

Adding fitness routines to their daily lives has also helped enormously. We have partnered with the local Adventure Fitness Training group to host seminars and exercise classes. The great folks at this organization have developed a special following of those who have had bariatric surgery. Their space is comfortable and the trainers, some of whom have traveled their own journeys with weight loss, bring high levels of understanding and respect to their clients. To learn more about them and the classes they offer, see

Watch for the next blog in this series on diabetes for more discussion about products you can use while combatting this disease.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Featured Product: Melissa & Doug Toys, A Special Capabilities Collection

Toys, you say? You might not expect to find toys at a store you have come to know as the "go to" place for solutions to your mobility challenges and other health related products. But, we have had toys and other products suitable for younger folks from the day we opened our doors. This holiday season we are expanding our reach into the world of children a bit more powerfully with a collection of Melissa & Doug toys. We have a couple of reasons for adding them to the mix right now. Of course, we are always looking to add more for regular customers; and, we do we have a faithful following of families with children with disabilities, including those with developmental disabilities. Toys are essential for children's development, regardless of abilities. Certain types of toys are critical as part of the overall path for the development of kids' with disabilities. Melissa & Doug toys are a favorite of many parents. These toys are made of wood, for the most part, an increasingly important aspect for the environment, and wonderful for easy handling and manipulation. Melissa & Doug create toys that often involve overt learning, focusing on the alphabet, numbers, sounds, textures or shapes. Additionally, these toys leave a lot of room for the imagination, giving space to the child to create his or her own play with the toys. The folks at Melissa & Doug took time asking us questions about our business and the types of toys that might best fit our store, choosing a special collection for us.
We also felt that adding a bigger selection of toys would be a great convenience for the many grandparents, aunts, uncles and neighbors who shop with us. How handy it would be, we mused, to pick up a suitable holiday gift for your grandchild while getting some of your own needs met!
Take a peek at our collection online or visit our flagship store while in the Denver metro area. Let us know if this convenience works for you. And, if you are a parent, relative, friend or teacher of a child with special needs, tell us about your favorite toys and tools for kids. We are always happy to take a look at products you have found to be successful.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Still Musing...

I find myself still musing on the news story I wrote about the other day regarding the opinions of the economics professor from Princeton who urges us to consider that health care is the largest sector of our economy. If we start to shift too much of it to government, we may further damage our fragile economy.

Why did this story strike a chord with me? Of course, as a small business owner, especially in a health related business, I am completely tuned into anything about health care, the economy and business. But, this interview is really working on me. Why is that? One reason is that it challenged many of my "natural" beliefs. Having worked for insurance companies and health maintenance organizations in the past, I know well the economics and politics of both the business and delivery sides of health care. I know about the "waste" that Professor Reinhardt spoke about, too. As a caregiver and someone who interacts with caregivers every day, I am also highly attuned to the very personal aspects of health care. The fragmentation of our health care system is appalling; it chews people up every day. And, as a business person who experiences the wiles of insurance companies and government programs on a daily basis, I have strong opinions about how things should work. So, even though we operate our business on a consumer model, one not dependent in any great measure on insurance revenue, I consistently believe things can change for the better, that health care is a responsibility our government should, at the very least, oversee. I have been excited about the prospects of a new administration that may stimulate a long overdue change process. When I put this all together, however, I find that Professor Reinhardt's perspectives gave me pause, in spite of my strong personal opinions. What if this system that is so flawed changes in ways that create even more economic woes? What happens if it stays the same? How much more "burden" can we bear as individuals and a society? Have we become too accustomed to considering health care a "burden," instead of an opportunity? What might replace this large chunk of the economy if we shifted a significant amount of the responsibility to government?

I am sure I will be pondering these questions into the new year. As someone whose passion and business revolves around health care, I know the answers to these questions are complex and challenging. Many, many minds will need to be part of finding the next approaches.

What do you think about all of this? Where do you stand in this health care debate. Tell us your story of how health care plays in your life.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Health Care and the Economy

Did you happen to hear the report on NPR tonight about health care as a key player in the stimulus to the economy? Uwe Reinhardt, Professor of Economics at Princeton, spoke about his perspectives about health care and economics. Currently, health care represents 16% of the gross domestic product, making it the largest sector of the economy. Because our economy is not growing right now, the professor speculates that within the next year or two, health care will grow to 18% of the GDP. By 2015, he assures us, it will represent 1/5th or 20% of the economy. He suggested thinking about the number $2.5 trillion within 4 or 5 years. He said,"Defense does not even come close to that number."

His perspective is that we should not try to "close down" or dramatically change health care right now, especially when our economy is so weak. What? The interviewer nearly gasped. Professor Reinhardt admits there is waste and plenty to "fix" in the health care system as it currently exists. He also testified before Congress recently to suggest that if we muck with it too much we may cause more economic disaster.

This interview was one of those that causes you to pause and rethink all your previous positions, even if only for a moment. As someone deeply "inside" health care as owner of Capabilities, I often think about reform. I have written many times in this blog about how the current system provides no glue; the fragmentation leaves individuals lost, like "deer in headlights," struggling to figure out the whole themselves. Having a bigger picture is what most people need when suddenly life changes because one's health changes. Yet, this professor of economics challenges the "culture of health care as burden," as he puts it. He sites news reports that unabashedly characterize the "good news" as the growth of businesses such as McDonald's, and "bad news" as the increasing costs of health care.

Professor Reinhardt wonders why we don't make more of the fact that fast food potentially damages health while "spiraling health care costs" might actually mean more hip replacements, effective drug treatments, and options for certain diseases that enhance the lives and productivity of Americans.

So, I have been pondering this report for a few days. I read all the immediate commentary from folks who replied on the NPR website, most of whom called the guy crazy. "Leave it to an economist," one wrote, "to come up with a depressing solution to one of the most devastating economy disasters of our time - health care." And yet, I find myself still intrigued that as the largest sector of our economy, health care is one of main economic engines we currently have. Surely, we are smart enough to figure this out, right?

What do you think? Give us your two cents.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Three Wishes...At Least

I have been eavesdropping on conversations lately, especially the ones that give hints of what might be on holiday wish lists. I linger near the mobility section and bath safety areas watching families discover products they believe will work for Mom or other loved ones they worry about. There are hosts of surprisingly practical, yet unique gifts out there. So, if you are in that familiar state that revisits you this time of year, the one where you spend hours wondering what on earth to buy for Aunt Peg, Grandpa, Uncle Joe or your bingo pal, I have some ideas for you.
For gifts under $25, for example, here are three that have caught the eye of a few shoppers last week:
Tray Mate: this simple and inexpensive tray attaches safely to an arm chair or sofa. Carol told me that her aunt loves having tea in her reclining lift chair, but can't find the right tray to make it work. She spilled tea earlier this year, just avoiding a serious burn. If you want to spend a bit more for your favorite aunt, add some Laughing Coyote Herbal Tea and a Steepware Mug to go with it, and you have just solved another gift giving conundrum.

FlexNeck Reading Light: David spent an hour the other day racking his brain for a small gift for his brother, Mike, who has a developmental disability. Mike lives with others in a small home in town, so much of what David purchases for him, also often gets shared with the others. David always likes to find at least one thing that Mike can keep in his room or in his pocket to have just for himself. I asked David some questions about what Mike liked to do, and when he said that David likes to look at books of maps, we mosied over to the book section and found this great reading light. With its wider clip, Mike can use it on many sized maps and books. It is also small enough to fit in his pocket. David then added a Book Peeramid to his purchase. He knows Mike will most likely share that since it is big enough to move around for others. But he knows that little flexneck light will stay with Mike.

MocSocks: Slippers can be so predictable sometimes as a gift for an older adult in your life. MocSocks, on the other hand, bring comfort and class to what can seem ordinary. Made of comfy PolarTec fabric, these products by the Colorado-based company, Janska, are both stylish and practical. A combination of moccasins and socks, this product features slip-proof gripping material on the soles and outside seams, ensuring that they will lay soft against the skin and not cause irritation. Ann loved this colorful and comfortable option for her friend whose feet are always chilly in the winter. You can add a lapwrap shawl to this purchase to complete your shopping for someone very special on your list.

I also overheard a touching conversation between a son and his mom. The son was clearly visiting for the Thanksgiving holidays, trying to work on some projects and share some quality time with his mother before returning to his home out of town. They happened upon Capabilities. Because her safety was very much on his mind, they ended up spending a lot of time walking around the store. After many suggestions by him and refusals to consider things by her, she suddenly was taken with the tub lift. "Oh, to take a bath again, instead of a shower," she mused out loud, catching herself when he perked up. They argued a bit, she denying that she really wanted something like this. They left. The son called us later, asking us to put one aside for him. He came back, purchased the tub lift and plans on wrapping it with a big bow and hiding it in his mother's house. He will call her on Christmas Eve and give her directions for finding this treasure. Some Boomer children are determined to overcome their parents' reluctance to consider spending some money to make their homes safe.

If you are on the hunt for something practical for the two of you, as you both face some of your challenges with arthritis, COPD or a heart condition, do what the Smiths did a few weeks ago. They came in wondering how they might get out and about again. They had seen others in electric scooters, but had never tried them. "We are just researching," they said. Two hours later after riding around the store and up and down the sidewalks of the shopping center, they bought scooters, one in blue for him, and red for her! "Merry Christmas," they said to each other, as they drove out the door. They are asking their kids to chip in to buy the auto lift that will make it all the easier to put the scooters in their minivan!

So, try not to get discouraged as you think about those "hard to buy for" loved ones in your life. And, certainly do not be curtailed by the older adult who says, "I don't need a thing. Save your money." Resist the urge to buy another sweater or candy dish. We also have a gift registry, so encourage your folks to mention what catches their fancy when they are browsing in our store. That way you can get the inside scoop by accessing their list!

Visit Capabilities in person or online for terrific ideas! Tell us some of your ideas for that special someone in your life who may have stumped you for a while.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Featured Product: Reclining Lift Chair Table

Dad has his reclining lift chair, but what a nuisance trying to figure out what kind of table to use when he wants to eat, work on crossword puzzles or write his memoirs! We are pleased to announce the Adjustable Reclining Lift Chair Table that comes in a right or left hand position for ease of use. Attractive and sturdy, this table is designed specifically for use with lift chairs, standard recliners or sofas. The table top pivots for convenience.

SAVE 15% when you buy this table by December 24th! Use or say the code LCTABLE.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Donate a Gift to an Older Adult

Imagine the loneliness of Christmas morning for so many older adults who live alone or who have no families. Assisted living residences, nursing homes and many non-profit groups sponsor gift-giving activities during the month of December. Capabilities partners with many of these organizations to encourage gift-giving. When you shop at Capabilities you can purchase and donate a gift to an older adult that we will deliver to one of our partner agencies. We will discount that gift 10% as an added feature of our participation. Please consider donating something on someone's wish list.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Don't Be SAD. Be Aware

December is Sadness Awareness Month. During this month when the days grow shorter here in the northern hemisphere, it is time to pay attention to yourself and to your loved ones to check on "sadness" levels. It is now well documented that there are some people - in fact, some estimates put the number at 10 million Americans alone - who predictably experience mood swings, some quite severe, as the amount of daylight diminishes. It is reported that perhaps as much as 75% of reported cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affect women. SAD is a very real condition and should not be taken lightly. It is even listed in the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual (DSM-IV).

So, what to do? Symptoms generally occur during Fall as the light changes, and include, greater levels of fatigue, lack of energy, increased cravings for sweets and weight gain. Often these symptoms peak during winter, then begin to subside as spring arrives. For many, the change of seasons is the cure, so clinical treatment is not warranted. Being sure you get outdoors as much as possible can give you some additional ammunition to fight off SAD. More severe and lasting symptoms of depression include loss of sleep and appetite, weight loss and sometimes serious mood swings. When these symptoms last, you should see your doctor. Treatments can include drug therapy. More recently, treatments include adding full spectrum lighting to the environment of those suffering the effects of SAD.

We have taken an interest in this condition at Capabilities through a bit of a back door. As many of you know, we have developed considerable expertise in the field of low vision, providing seminars and access to experts throughout the region. We also carry one of the largest collection of low vision products in the region. Research and experience say that lighting is crucial for those experiencing macular degeneration and other conditions that affect vision. Among the many lighting options we offer, our newest addition is indoor sunshine spiral light bulbs. Indoor Sunshine® bulbs use all the environmentally correct processes of CFLs, the technology that is revolutionizing the manufacture of light bulbs, and uses an additional process to ensure that the light created offers full spectrum lighting, like that of the sun. The creators of these bulbs say, Change your Light. Change your Life.® We are finding this to be so.

Not only are those with low vision challenges attracted to these bulbs, but everyone who sees the stark comparisons (offered by our in-store displays) between these bulbs and the typical CFLs in the marketplace, wants to give them a try. Because the light is closer to the full spectrum range of sunlight, the overall effect is greater levels of illumination. Research continues to support the claims, too, that full spectrum lighting offers some of the additional benefits of sunshine, including greater production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps control mood. There are numerous studies underway that explore other benefits of full spectrum lighting. The key for now, however, is that you do not need to have been diagnosed with SAD or a condition affecting your vision to enjoy the benefits of indoor sunshine lighting.

Give us your story of being sunshine deprived and its effects.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Resource for Family Caregivers

Hi, I'm Anne Togher, Founder and President of I appreciate the opportunity to blog here at

You have already read on the Capabilities blog that November is National Family Caregivers Month. For any of you who are caring for, or managing the care for a friend, relative or loved one, you already know about the challenges, the stress, and the toll it can take on your own life. While I appreciate that there is a month designated to recognize the work that you do, I also acknowledge that November will come and go…..and you will still be doing what you do, every day.

I could share lots of statistics about the impact that stress can have on caregivers, I could easily take up an entire blog writing about all the problems, challenges and struggles I have seen caregivers cope with – problems, challenges and struggles I am certain many of you have experienced in your own caregiving journeys. What I believe would be more helpful is to hear about the solutions. What resources are available to support you, to help you find solutions to the unique challenges you are facing, and to help you put your own care first?

I am so pleased to announce the launch of the Toghers website focused exclusively on family caregivers. Our solution will guide both self-care and the care that is being provided by you, the caregiver. Your free membership will entitle you to an Exclusive Caregivers Planning Guide personalized for your unique situation, resources such as articles, care tips and checklists, and soon we will offer an online caregiver community where you can connect with other caregivers in similar situations. You will also be able to purchase online sessions with a Caregiver Coach, Caregiver Plans that guide you through the process of establishing plans in a variety of areas, and a Self-care subscription that helps you set goals around your own care and have reminders that help make this a priority.

We, too, are pleased to collaborate with Capabilities in this effort. As the premier provider of both practical and unique products for caregiving, we are certain you will find satisfaction in both planning your caregiving activities with us and finding products and related services at Capabilities.

I invite you to visit and take the first step to taking care of yourself. Please also tell us about your caregiving experiences.

Anne Togher is the President and Founder of Toghers. After twenty years in the field of elder care, Anne knew that there had to be a better way to support family caregivers. From that realization, Toghers was created.
Collaborating To Bring You Even More

Ever on the hunt to be sure you can find the solutions that are right for you, we are so delighted to tell you about yet another great collaboration we have formed with Toghers, a one-of-a-kind website focused exclusively on family caregivers. Most web-based solutions are focused on the care the caregiver provides rather than caregiver self-care. The Toghers solution will guide both self-care and the care that is being provided by you, the caregiver. Because our mission is to work with caregivers, families and individuals alike, we love finding resources like Toghers to help you have more options. You will find a link on our site directly to Toghers and they have one to Capabilities. Founder, Anne Togher, writes a blog for us this month, too, so you can learn more about her and her organization. You can visit for more details and to sign up for free membership on the site which entitles you to the Exclusive Caregivers' Planning Guide. Thanks to Anne and the great folks at Toghers for creating this wonderful resource.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What Have We Been Up To?

If you have missed us these last weeks, we have missed you, too. What on earth have we been up to at Capabilities? We are excited to tell you lots of good news!
Most importantly, take a look at our website, If you have not browsed lately, surprise! We have a new look and shopping you could get used to pretty fast. Please let us know what you think about our new site. And, practice shopping on it! Use Code NEWLOOK for a 10% discount on your most expensive item. You will see that it is not perfect, of course. We continue to add product, fiddle with photos, and iron out the wrinkles. With your support and patience, we know Capabilities will be as great on-line as it is in person.

It turns out opening a web store is about as complicated as opening a physical store, but in different ways. When we opened our flagship store in Westminster, for example, we spent lots of time finding the right location, using our demographics research, city statistics on traffic counts, and hanging out at various shopping centers to see just what went on there during various times of the day. For our web store, we had to rethink about the categories of our products, choosing labels and names that the average website user might use, instead of our own shorthand categories that we use for inventory management in the physical store. These activities sound quite distinct between physical store and web store, but I'll tell you, the amount of hours spent on one rival the other.

It has been and will continue to be quite the learning experience for us as we get your feedback and integrate new ideas and improvements continually. We both imagine a day, of course, when we have a team full of experts who can immediately execute the next brilliant idea. In the meantime, we are grateful to Jim James, our interim technology guru, who has given us more time and attention than we could have ever imagined. We thank each other, too, for the long hours, the fat fingered mistakes, and surviving the hair-pulling frustrations both of us have endured to get this new site launched. We know the real work is just beginning, reaching through cyberspace into families facing challenges, trying to provide caregivers with information and products to make the work easier and more comfortable for everyone, just as we do in person with Capabilities, the physical store.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us get this far. Let's keep going forward!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

November is Caregivers Month

We write frequently about caregiving in this blog. Everyday we meet the generous, hard working and dedicated caregivers who find in themselves the patience, strength and commitment to keep on giving and caring for those in their lives. There are over 50 milion caregivers in this country; we are honored to play an important role in your lives.

Just this week, I spoke with dozens of caregivers facing very different challenges, yet all of them similar insofar as they are all looking for solutions to the complexities of the everyday.

Take, for example, Chris, who called to ask what might be out there to help make her home safe for her mom whose Alzheimer's has progressed now to a new level. Chris wants to live in her home comfortably, and yet she now knows that same home is a potential danger zone for her mother. We talked about some of the obvious "child proofing" products and tactics that exist. What Chris wants, though, is something that allows her to "lock up" after mom has gone to bed. During the day, Chris and her mother manage fairly well, negotiating the kitchen, bathroom and the outdoors. It's nightime that scares Chris. Her mother gets up and wanders, opening, fidgeting, turning and, possibly harming herself. We are on the hunt with Chris for something more innovative than locks that keep Chris out of her own home during the day. Inventors, take your cues!

On the other hand, we had just the right product for Doris, who wanted a hearing aid compatible phone for her dad with a large print display on it so he could identify callers and see more easily the numbers as he dials. Caregivers like Doris, who work a full time job during the day and check on aging parents after work and on weekends, need to find products when they can. And, they need to rely on people like us who have done the research and can easily explain the differences among so many choices. This is what we live for at Capabilities.

The caregiving story often ends in sorrow for so many. We heard this week about deaths in two of the families we have grown close to over the past months as they moved through the caregiving process with their loved ones. In one family, the loss of a son in his 30s who fought the hard fight against a number of disabilities that have caused him great physical pain throughout his young life. Another family lost its matriarch to cancer. In each case, loving family members provided the most exquisite types of caregiving imaginable. I only hope for such tenderness in the hours when I will most need it.

Sometimes our relationships change dramatically with a caregiver when the person they have been caring for passes. In some cases, the caregiver moves on, trying to reintegrate into so many of the parts of their lives they have given up or missed. The need to focus on equipment and comfort for another takes a back seat, hopefully for a long time. In other cases, we continue to work with caregivers in a number of ways as they look to donate or find another home for some of the tools and equipment they purchased. Our reach into the community is deep and we often can recommend places where they can go to discuss their used equipment. Occasionally, we look at something like a power wheelchair and buy it back for our rental fleet. In all cases, we invite you to contact us for more conversation on this delicate subject.

We have enduring relationships with many caregivers who turn to Capabilities for their own comfort. Tom comes by regularly to buy our foot soak crystals so after a long day he can relax and take care of himself. Margaret loves the Caren cucumber lotion for comfort. And, Amy and Todd each bought Book Peeramids to be sure they take a moment before conking out at night to enjoy some of their favorite books.

We also learn so much from our work. Caregivers and others in the midst of these pressing challenges often find solutions and tools we have not yet come upon. Gretchen led us to discovering the gas cap wrench as she faced her limitations battling ALS. Ed's need for something to help with his snoring and sleep apnea caused us to find the anti-snore pillow, now a popular product for so many. Fronsie, a motivated senior determined to stay involved in the reading and writing pleasures of her life despite advancing macular degeneration, helped us find the Extreme Reader/Scanner with a choice of voices that sound more like the human voice. Working with her, experimenting with different brands, brought us all a lot of insight. Together we found this option, which is making all the difference for her.

Tell us about the tools and resources you have found as a caregiver or as an individual facing the physical and emotional challenges of illness, injury or the aging process. We love your stories and always learn from them. You can post your comments to this blog below.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Our Prescription for Change

So, the election is over. Whether you are delighted or not about the outcome, let’s get focused on one of the major issues facing our nation, health care. We see a particular set of concerns through our lens here at Capabilities. We see families facing some of the biggest and scariest challenges of their lives. When physical illness or injury arrives on your doorstep, or when finally you realize the effects of aging are catching up with your parents, or yourself, the world changes. We have written a lot about that "deer in the headlights" look that comes over us when we are confronted with this type of change.

What will the new President do? What will the new administration do to address the difficulties so many families face? We cannot pretend to know the answer to the many questions of how to help families facing illness, injury and the impact of aging. We do know what does not work well now.

Take Medicare, for example. As a Medicare provider, Capabilities works with folks to address needs for durable medical equipment, DME, as its called. The types of equipment and amounts covered shrinks all the time. The process is onerous, causing many to give up. We have written in this blog before about Medicare. In the coming weeks, we will review again some of the key requirements for Medicare coverage for such products as wheelchairs, power equipment, lift chairs and patient beds. Suffice it to say here that for folks who have worked long and hard and have an expectation of receiving help through Medicare after age 65, the laments are many and the list, long on complaints.

We have built Capabilities to respond to individuals, not to insurance companies. However, we do our fair share of intervening. We are happy to do so for our customers, although we clearly see the writing on the wall.

We urge everyone to bring your voice to the table of our newly elected government. As our leaders think, discuss and imagine the future, your voices need to be there. You have ideas and concerns. If you are part of a family facing enormous change because of illness, injury or aging, no one can describe more vividly the impact it is having on your life, your lifestyle and your family. Tell us your stories and we will do our best to pass them on, too.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ask Doctor Marion...and Capabilities!

You might recall that we met an extraordinary woman a while ago, Doctor Marion, a geriatric care manager who has committed her life to helping families care for aging relatives. We wrote about Doctor Marion's bus tour and her visit to Capabilities. Well, a lot has happened since then. Doctor Marion has completed two more bus tours across the U.S., visiting families, senior centers, churches, assisted living residences, libraries and a host of other places where people gather. She has brought her message of caregiving, providing ideas and a listening ear.

We are delighted that Doctor Marion chose to visit us recently with her camera crew to film us and Capabilities. We are definitely on her "favorites" list as a unique place for seniors and their families. Because we have gathered one of the largest collections of products for independence, Doctor Marion chose us to collaborate with her in the creation of a documentary about caregiving. We also helped her put together some training films that will appear on our website and hers, helping everyday people figure out how to make their way through home modifications, the use of traditional (and not so traditional) medical equipment. and tips for working with your parents or other aging relatives to come to agreements about care and safety. We spent a weekend at our flagship location in Westminster, CO reviewing, filming and interviewing some of our customers, like Exie, our 92 year old example of the "glass half full" type of person. Stay tuned as we bring details of the finished videos your way in 2009.

By way of thanking and honoring caregivers, Capabilities is offering a complimentary copy of Doctor Marion's, Elder Care Made Easier, with your purchase of $100 of caregiving products. Just use (or tell us in person when shopping in our physical stores) the code word CAREGIVING and we will give (or send) you a copy of the book. Her easy to follow steps take some of the mystery out of caregiving.

We are honored to share this partnership with Doctor Marion. You can visit her website at for more information about her and her great work across the country.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Artists Everywhere

Some artists are born. Some are made. Some emerge from life's delights. Others from its challenges. Some art makes you smile. Some art tears at your insides. And then there is art created by mustering large amounts of hope, determination, and hard work. Rocky Mountain Stroke Association (RMSA) recently displayed art created by stroke survivors. While the evening was an art show opening in many ways as we moved around the room, nibbling hors d'oeuvres and commenting on the color, light and form of so many diverse pieces, we knew this night held stories of individuals who have fought the battle of their lives to recover from one of life's harshest blasts, stroke.

Pam attended the art show with grandsons, Arley and Sam. They were especially taken with Sunset Soldiers, a painting by Randy Vaughn. Randy's stroke journey began as a near-death experience. His wife and daughter had moved to their new home in Littleton while he remained in Tucson to finish up with their house. He remembers getting up one Friday night, and collapsing in the bathroom. The house was empty and he was alone. His boss came by the following Wednesday, wondering why he hadn't been to work. Randy had survived for five days by getting water on a sponge from the bathroom sink, but he was unable to crawl to the phone. He was able to yell to his boss through the walls for help.

Randy spent more than a week in ICU where he was found to have 90% occlusion of both of his carotid artieries. A nursing home was the only option for rehab, a unique and often difficult option for a 49 year old person. After a while, he was transferred by air to Spalding Rehabilitation. Despite excellent therapy for the next two months, he went home in a wheelchair. He continued with home PT and it was during this time that he was able to take his first steps in relearning to walk.

While attending a stroke support group, he saw a flyer from the RMSA announcing small group therapy classes. He joined one of the first classes in the program, and has faithfully attended ever since. Randy's artistic talents emerge in wildlife and outdoor scenes. He continues to see improvements in his technique all the time. Despite losing his former life and his marriage because of the stroke, he tries to stay as active as possible. He is now able to drive. He still enjoys hunting and fishing and has done volunteer work for the Department of Fish and Game in spotting wildlife.

The Art Therapy program is taught by a professional artist who lives in Littleton and had used this technique with her mother, who had had a stroke. The class has grown so much that it now meets at 9 and 10:30 a.m. on Monday mornings. Every year, new artists and those whose talents continue to develop display their work at the RMSA event. Art uses the right side of the brain and through the process proves that neurons in the brain can learn new skills. As Randy and others have found, art also provides an avenue of expression, particularly for those who have speech impairment. To learn more about Art Therapy classes and all of the services available at RMSA, contact or call 303-730-8800. RMSA provides physical and speech therapy at Capabilities every Wednesday. See our Events calendar for details.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

It's Like Riding a Bike

There is no end to the opportunities we have at Capabilities to be part of human goodness. In October we were invited to participate in the first annual bike fair for children and young people with disabilities. Sponsored by the non-profit organization, Assisted Cycling Tours, this day was about families and their kids doing something that many of these young people cannot do, ride a bike. Bob Matter, Founder of Assisted Cycling Tours, has created a tandem bike riding experience for kids and adults with physical and/or developmental disabilities. Bob and his son, David, who has autism, worked together to create this Westminster, CO non-profit organization.

The event offered families the opportunity to enjoy a bike ride with their child or to watch him or her ride with a trained Assisted Cycling Tours expert. We brought some of Capabilities' practical tools to help children with disabilities do some of their everyday activities more easily, like eating, drinking and writing. Weighted utensils help stabilize a trembling hand and provide sensory feedback. The remarkable Steady Spoon, designed with a tiny gyroscope, that keeps the bowl of the spoon steady regardless of movement caused by tremors or paralysis. Cups with straws that hold liquid are great for some people with Down Syndrome, autism, and cerebal palsy, helping with motor and muscular development. For writing we featured the Writing Bird, the Ergo Writer, and grips that add texture and weight to pens and pencils making it easier to grip. The Writing Bird encourages the individual to grip the body of the bird to move the pen held in the beak of the bird. Some people with fine motor skill challenges can move in broader motions. The Writing Bird optimizes this approach. The Ergo Writer is ideal for those who cannot grip a pencil or pen. The lever on this tool is designed to hold the thumb providing the appropriate leverage for writing.

We also brought products for the caregiver, meant to soothe, comfort and help chase away fatigue and more. Among the more popular items were some of our incredible teas and very cool steepware for brewing those teas.

What are your particular thoughts and ideas about caring for children with disabilities? What are the types of tools and experiences that you have found useful or would like to see. Post your comments to this blog.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Capabilities Celebrates In A Big Way!

Wow! What a great 3rd anniversary month we had in September. Thank you to everyone who made this big milestone so special for us. We so appreciate our customers, those of you who trust us everyday to work with you and your families to help maneuver through the hard stuff, and the easy things, too. We commit ourselves to continue to give you the attention you deserve, the products you need, and a warm and welcoming staff and store. We are delighted to begin our fourth year with you.

Not only did we offer some terrific products on sale throughout the month, but we had some great giveaways, too. We have some very happy winners! Special thanks to our suppliers, Colorado Physical Therapy Institute, Drive Medical, FLA Orthopedics, and Juzo who contributed gift cards and products.

Thanks, too, to so many of our business partners in the community who joined us on September 16 to share their expertise with the community of customers we cherish:
Adventure Fitness Training
Brookdale Senior Living
Centura Home Health
Colorado Senior Connections
Connections Unlimited
First Choice
Inga Tomasino, Reflexology Massage
Preferred Solutions
ResponselinkSally Allen, A Place for Everything
The Family Hearing Centers
The Prime Time
The Teaspot

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

October is Disabilities Awareness Month

One in five Americans lives with at least one disability, and most Americans will experience a disability at some time during the course of their lives. In fact, statistics reveal that as we age, the chance for acquiring a disability increases significantly. While some disabilities are easy to see, others, like a developmental disability or a chronic condition, might not be. There are so many disabilities many are hard to catalog, and the same disability can affect each person differently.
If you have a disability or know someone who does, perhaps this month you can treat yourself, or them, with a bit more tenderness. Find out what might feel special to them and see if you can make that happen. If you do not have a disability or have not yet known anyone with a disability, this might be the month you take a moment and do a bit of research. The Centers for Disease Control has a number of special articles this month highlighting various disabilities, helping us all understand more about them. (Visit for more details.)

Here in Colorado, Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. has proclaimed October 12 - 18, 2008 as Assistive Technology Awareness Week. Capabilities is participating in these awareness activities during the month of October in a number of ways. Check Events for specifics over the coming days.
You might be wondering what Assistive Technology (AT) means. Assistive Technology refers to the tools and resources used by folks to help improve their quality of life, such as a hearing aid, a talking alarm clock, a knee brace, manual and power wheelchairs or, it can be more sophisticated, such as a voice-activated computer systems or stair climbing wheelchairs. AT tools assist someone with dressing or cooking, and help people stay in contact with friends and family through electronic adaptation devices such as computers, or special telephones. AT helps people on the job, at home and in the community. AT tools and services are necessities, not luxury items, that empower people to control their lives and their futures.

Capabilities carries one of the largest selection of AT devices in the Denver metro area. We work closely with the state-run Assistive Technologies Project and with Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapists, doctors and other health care professionals across the region to provide individuals with the tools they need to lead independent lives.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Capabilities Turns Three

It is hard to believe! We have been making our list of just how much has changed in three years, of how far we have come. We are mostly struck mostly with how many more people we serve today. Sometimes in those early days we used to wonder if we needed to get out on the street with a sandwich board. We are grateful to all our customers, to the health care community who trusts us with referrals, and to our suppliers and business partners who help us provide such a wide array of products.

Speaking of products, we are also amazed at just how many more products we carry now compared to that opening day three years ago.

So how exactly does that happen? First of all, we take our lead a lot of the time from our customers, who come in with special requests or describe their needs and their wish lists. In some cases, we find exactly what they need with one of our suppliers already on board. Occasionally, we have to go on the hunt, wondering if such a thing exists. This was the case with gas cap wrench, one of my favorite products discovered early on because of a particular need expressed by one of our customers.

We also discover products because they find us. As you know from reports of our annual New Product Showcase, we are presented with new ideas all year long, some from local inventors and suppliers, others from companies and individuals from around the country. We are recently hearing from companies abroad who are discovering Capabilities.

Pam and I also like to shop! So, we go to shows around the country. And, not just medical trade shows. We like to attend gift shows and kitchen shows; meetings for folks with specific physical conditions, such as the Possibilities Fair and conference for folks who are blind or suffer low vision; fitness shows; specialty events. Making the rounds, when we can, exposes us to all kinds of wonderful tools and products that we would not otherwise find or think about perhaps. Such was the case with the Buddha Board, which we happened upon quite by accident, but which has given a unique flare to the gift giving habits of many of our customers.

A major source of new products is our suppliers, most of which are always looking for improvements, for ways to enhance their offerings. For example, we have just discovered the Diamond Rollator, a streamlined four-wheeled walker from Drive Medical, with a “straight-leg” design, making it easy to maneuver, fold and store. We had one on the floor as a sample, and within days this product was scooped up, with a bit of a waiting list already.

We have a lot of fun expanding our collection, introducing new products, working hard to satisfy both practical needs for mobility and the ever-important need for comfort that we all have as humans.

Please let us know if there is a product you want us to know about or to be sure we have.

And, thank you so much for supporting us these three years! We are very excited to begin our fourth! Watch this space for news soon on our brand new website! You will be able to find lots of our products easily as you do research or make purchases for yourself or someone you care for.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Capabilities Opens First Mobile Art Show on September 16

We are delighted to announce that we launch the first of what we expect will be many art shows on the walls of Capabilities on September 16, 2008, the third anniversary of Capabilities. We feature our Mobile Art Collection, hand-painted mobility equipment designed and crafted by local artist, Amy Vicioso, and Gae Miller, artist from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Amy has developed a unique gold-leafing process to create fashion canes and crutches. Her latest “graffiti” technique uses symbols and color to bring home themes of healing and comfort.

Gae Miller creates whimsical designs and patterns that integrate lifestyle and comfort. Inspired by her own journey, Gae began painting canes and crutches as she faced her own challenges with disability.

You can meet Amy Vicioso on September 16 as she joins us to unveil our Mobile Art Collection at 5:30 p.m. at Capabilities. You can view these unique creations through October 31. You can also purchase this Mobile (and functional) Art at Capabilities.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Capabilities Makes Louise's Day!

We write a lot about how amazing it is for us to be part of so many people’s lives, helping families solve very real problems every day. Having a business with such a big purpose keeps all of us focused on what is important. Occasionally, we come upon situations where the need is great and the resources available to an individual or an organization are few. We had such an opportunity come our way recently when the good people at Bessie’s Hope asked our help. Bessie’s Hope is a not-for-profit organization in the Denver metro area that brings community participation into nursing homes through volunteer programs. Each year, several thousand volunteers and several thousand elders are impacted by this life-transforming work. In addition to the elders, these programs are especially beneficial to "at-risk" youth. They told us about Louise who lives in a local assisted living community who has had trouble getting out and about. Because she needs to be in a wheelchair all of the time now, her caregiver was having increasing difficulty managing her manual wheelchair. We suggested a transport chair and after hearing more about Louise and her situation, we made the decision to donate the transport wheelchair to make Louise’s life a bit richer.

What a delight for us to meet Louise, her caregivers and the great folks from Bessie’s Hope who showed up on September 5 as Louise tried out her snazzy new transport chair. Check out these smiling faces on that happy day.

As Capabilities continues to grow, we know we will continue to touch so many lives in countless ways. We also know that we will continue to be touched and made better by people like Louise.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Final Thoughts on Our Week at the DNC: Day 5

We walked for hours through Denver’s streets last night, amazed to be here, to live here. We happened upon the Weston Hotel just as the motorcade carrying Barack Obama pulled out into the street crowded on its edges with screaming fans and hoards of police. This is the place, we said, where we will watch his speech. Once the motorcade pulled away, the smiling police waved us through. This contingent was glad that their responsibilities went off without a hitch. We sat at the bar with others, some Denverites, many from out of town, and watched history being made.

And now, as we get back to life off the streets, we offer many thanks to David Kennedy, Disabilities Coordinator on the Denver Host Committee. After months of trying to connect with the right people to offer Capabilities’ services during the DNC, David met with us almost as soon as he came on board. He listened to our idea of a mobile wheelchair repair service, which no other Democratic National Convention had offered previously. He supported it and made it happen. We appreciate his focus, sensitivity and accessibility to us throughout the whole process. We heard many compliments about him, his staff and the whole Host Committee during our week on the streets of Denver. Congratulations to them all, congratulations to Denver for a spectacular experience!

Thanks, too, to the many who chose Capabilities as they planned their trips to Denver and when they arrived. We appreciate you and everyone who give us so much reason and purpose everyday. We can’t wait to take our mobile unit on the road again! Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Capabilities Makes a Difference: Day 4 at the DNC

8:00 a.m.
Dave and I comment that we are becoming pros at this mobile set up. We can pop that canopy tent in a few minutes now and get our things arranged in half the time. We are curious about this last day, as everyone begins to focus on the big event at Invesco Field later tonight. I try my best to snag some tickets, putting out more calls and inquiries about availability.

10:30 a.m.
We muse on the week so far, on the people we have met and seen. I am most impressed by how many people we have introduced to some of this equipment. The RollerAid has by far drawn the most interest. This knee walker, designed for those with foot and ankle problems, replaces crutches for most activities. This brand, we believe, is by far the most advanced, providing convenient steering along with a number of basic comfort features, such as a holder for a water bottle! I can’t tell you how many people see it and want to sit on it like a tricycle. We have great fun explaining this amazing piece of equipment. Dave has done a number of demonstrations in the street during this week.

The other big draw is the Nexus walker. As I have written before in my blog, this walker not only is one of the lightest weight walkers available today, its unique design offers portability and stowage unlike any other. Our model is without cables, too, making it an even better bet for older folks, in particular, who often snag the cables as they make their way through sometimes tight spaces. While no one bought one of these on Stout St., we felt great about introducing it to a whole new population.

3:00 p.m.
The crowd thins considerably now at this end of town. Invesco Field opened around 1 p.m. to begin accommodating the tens of thousands scheduled to attend. Dave and I compare some notes again on people watching. We talk about the vet returned from Afghanistan without his legs who came by every day to talk and purchase something. Today he bought his wife some Caren lotion! His views on this political week are intense and passionate. His visit underscores our role in this business as listeners. I am struck again and again about how much more helpful we are at Capabilities when we listen fully. Solutions emerge when you have a bigger picture of the real need. And, we comment that there are many needs we can never fill, of course. I admire Dave’s ability to stay humble as he solves major mobility problems every day.

4:00 p.m.
As we wind down this week on the street in the Capabilities mobile wheelchair repair unit, I see a man in his 40s or so on crutches. One leg has been amputated. He smiles over at us; I point to the electric scooter. “Na,” he says. “I have figured these things out,” looking almost lovingly at his crutches, “and can make some good headway for now.” I had already packed the Capabilities crutch covers away, but I am sure he would not have stopped long enough to look at them.

5:30 p.m.
As we push the last of our products and equipment into the van, Pam and I decide we are going to stay downtown. The energy and excitement of the week culminates this night at Invesco, and even though we did not succeed in getting tickets, we will crowd around some television in a hotel bar to watch the crowds as this amazing week comes to an end.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Capabilities to the Rescue: Day 3 at the DNC

9:00 a.m.
We feel the energy building today, already this early in the day. More traffic, more people, more buzz. Folks stream past us on Stout St., stop and inquire, take cards, buy some products. There are many who are starting to worry a bit about the big Thursday night speech at Invesco Field, otherwise, called Mile High Stadium to those of us who remember its original name. We have a number of scooter rentals and transport wheelchair rentals. A transport wheelchair weighs less and is easier to push through crowds. You cannot actually self-propel in a transport chair, so it is only a good solution if you have someone with you to push. Under those circumstances, however, it is ideal if you are on your way to Invesco tomorrow since we hear there are still a few gaps in the transportation process for those with disabilities.

11:30 a.m.
We get a call that a volunteer in from Gallaudet University, a university founded by and for those with hearing impairments, is in trouble at the Convention Center. His power wheelchair won’t move after a wild taxi ride. He has no way to travel the two blocks to our mobile station, so Dave packs up some tools and goes to him. He troubleshoots as much as he can, but decides he needs to work on the chair in a serious way. He helps push the young man to our site on Stout St. A companion is with him who helps translate through sign language. Thank goodness we brought our loaner power wheelchair! He transfers into ours and goes onto a full day of volunteering at the Pepsi Center.
Dave brings his talents, first at assessing the problem and quickly fixing it. Even without his workshop of tools, he gets to the root of the matter and within an hour has Andrew’s chair as good as new. Andrew cannot come back, though, until Thursday morning. His chair becomes a curiosity for passersby as it has the overall look of a manual wheelchair with all the power of a power chair. Dave explains how this type of wheelchair works to those who stop and inquire throughout the afternoon.

3:00 p.m.
I walk along the 16th St. Mall, handing out our cards and looking for photo ops. I have seen a few famous faces, mostly journalists, in these days so far. I am eager for a sighting of someone really famous. I hear George Clooney and Oprah are in town! What I come upon instead is the hilarious moment I captured in this video clip. A belly dancer emerges from the crowd to present herself to the stand of riot police standing guard. She promises them a moment they won’t forget. See how each policeman looks somewhere else! Suddenly confronted with something that could be a diversionary tactic, and noting quickly just how many of us, including a TV camera, turn on this funny scene, the police officers are a bit perplexed on how to manage the situation. They most surely enjoy seeing this beautiful woman wiggling in front of them, yet they cannot appear distracted, but they are distracted in their efforts to appear unmoved by all this. A couple of them smile at the irony of it all. A truly terrific scene and one of so many where the police, all ready for the worst, actually joined in with the crowds in a friendly and unassuming way.

5:30 p.m
As we pack up this evening, I am already feeling a bit melancholy knowing that Thursday is the culmination. On the other hand, the long list of “to do” items back at the store grows for both me and Dave, so we are eager to get back and begin handling those things.
A delegate from Illinois stopped by earlier on a bike to chat about a power scooter for his 93-year old uncle who wants to go to listen to Obama’s speech on Thursday. He was frustrated not to have found us earlier. He says he will rent one on Thursday, assuming he can get a ticket for his uncle. He then went on to talk about the conflict he felt being a delegate for Senator Clinton, that is, until she visited their delegation early in the day to say that she is fully behind Senator Obama. By this point in the day, of course, she had called for his nomination by acclimation. The man on the bike was living history!

8:00 p.m.
I am always aware of the role we play providing equipment and products for independence and mobility. There is something, however, being on the streets, encountering people in these large numbers, some of whom do not have the means or the information they need to acquire some of these products, that moves me even more. I wonder again about the road that had led me here, and while I cannot explain it all, I end this day grateful for the chance to be on it. This experience will live inside me a very long time!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Capabilities In The Heart of Denver: Day 2 at the DNC

1:00 a.m.
We just returned from our incredible evening with the Make Mine a Million $ Business folks. What a night of encouragement! We soar with the memories of the thousand plus crowd cheering us on as we spoke about Capabilities and our mission of bringing relevant and appropriate solutions for comfort and mobility to millions. We also had the privilege of standing very nearby as Hillary Clinton delivered her supportive speech in praise of women business owners and entrepreneurs as part of the long legacy of women making a difference in our country. She quoted Harriet Tubman who played such a critical role in keeping the Underground Railroad alive. “If you want to taste freedom, keep going!” We take this message very personally. We are fueled for another long distance run.

8:00 a.m.
The set up is already a bit easier today. Dave and I have more of a rhythm as we pull our cargo out of the van, pop the open air canope, so generously loaned to us by DJ and Bob, family friends, and arrange our rental equipment in full view of the crowds streaming across the 16th St. Mall. We figured out a better way to hang our sign, for example, for more visibility. I am making notes about what kind of signage we ultimately need to create to take our store mobile more often.

Dave and I share our notes from all the people watching we are doing. He is also tinkering with scooters and wheelchairs as passersby stop more frequently to check us out. The pattern is clear: not much traffic on Stout St. in the morning. We learn from area businesses that many of their employees have taken the week off or are working from home. One of the local fast food places says business is actually less than normal at the moment because the regulars are not there. Even the RTD light rail train is infrequent these mornings.
3:00 p.m.
I just returned from a few hours at the Convention Center. The public can enter this center unlike the Pepsi Center which requires credentials and clearance. Security is still intense as we pass through metal detectors and long lines. While there I visit with so many people, including volunteers welcoming the delegates. Adrenaline runs thick in this city these days, as we locals try to put our best foot forward and offer as much help and hospitality as possible.

While there, I attended the Disabilities Caucus. The theme of freedom and independence, high on the agenda for both attendees and the Obama campaign, charged with running this meeting. For two hours voices from both local communities and those from around the country spoke, clarifying the needs and wants of those with disabilities, sometimes tearfully, sometimes angrily, most often with passion and convincing arguments. One of the most notable things was to arrive in an empty ballroom filled with chairs. Of course, it soon was clear that more than half the chairs would have to go since people in power wheelchairs and manual wheelchairs need plenty of room for their equipment. An obvious faux pas on the part of the organizers!

How much more we all have to do to hold in mind what kinds of changes are needed to make the world a friendlier and more easily navigable place for those with disabilities! I find myself thinking about times when I have forgotten simple things, like making enough space in our conference room for those with wheelchairs. And this happens, even with my daily immersion in a business that introduces me to people with temporary and permanent disabilities every day. Sitting in that meeting, I am proud and delighted that we offered this idea of providing a mobile unit to rent and repair mobility equipment at the DNC. I spread the word of our service to everyone in the room.

5:00 p.m.
As we pack up, a group of teens approach. “Hey,” one shouts, “let me test drive one for my grandma!” “Yeah, sure,” we smile. “Come on,” he urges. “Do you have any money?” we ask. “Nope,” as he and the pack move on, smiling, realizing they need a better line next time. Dave says that earlier in the day, though, a couple of young folks spent time asking real questions about the scooters and power chairs on behalf of their grandmother who is having a harder and harder time moving about. They wanted enough information to talk with her and the rest of the family about investing in grandma’s mobility. It turns out we are not only the curious ones as we live this amazing experience! We are a source of curiosity and real education for many who have never seen this stuff before, or only from afar.

7:00 p.m.
As I watch the political speeches on television, I read through the position paper given me at the Disabilities Caucus. Senator Obama has a number of provisions in his plans to bring equality to those with disabilities in employment, for example, and funding for those who cannot work because of their disabilities. I look for something on McCain’s website about disabilities, but am unsuccessful in finding it, at least tonight.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Capabilities Mobile Unit: Day 1 at the DNC

7:30 a.m.
I arrive very early at our two parking spots on Stout St. I somehow did not believe that the bags on the meters would prevent others from snagging those two prime spots. Good thing! Any number of cars try to pull in while I was unpacking the van. Some argue, but as soon as I mention our “mobile wheelchair repair unit,” they smile nicely and move on. As I pull tables, scooters and products from the back of the van, I pause frequently to take in the idea that we are about to enter four amazingly historic days from a completely different vantage point than so many in Denver for the DNC. What would this be all about? Would we actually make a difference with our idea of providing such a service in the heart of town? This is going to be quite the experience, no matter what!

How strange to maneuver in two parking spaces aligned vertically! Of course, we conclude quickly that we had brought too much with us! Dave and I work for about an hour, unloading, setting up, arranging and re-arranging to create a warm and welcoming look and feel so typical of Capabilities. You can see from our photos that the only thing we did not bring was a rug to throw over the oil stains on the street!

11:30 a.m.
Lisa Cope, delegate from Texas, stops by. She had contacted us early to rent a scooter, having found us through the offices of David Kennedy, Disabilities Coordinator with the Denver Host Committee. So happy to have electric power to maneuver through the crowd, Lisa tells us about some of her experiences this early in the process. She has already told many others about our rental and repair service. Suddenly, an enormous roar comes around the corner from the 16th St. Mall. Protestors, lots of them, approach on our side of the street. Right along side them are SWAT teams of police with riot gear, on foot, on horseback, on bicycle. Cameras, reporters, shouting hoards swarm around us. Lisa exchanges words with a few of the protestors who are in no mood for pleasant conversation. Dave gets on the phone trying to call the store and let the others in on our excitement. We are quickly in the middle of one part of the action that will excite and worry Denver all week. This is surely one way to get some attention for the Capabilities mobile wheelchair repair unit very fast! Onlookers and passersby hang out a bit with us after the protestors and police moved up the street and around the corner.

1:00 p.m.
Another delegate, Patricia, calls, breathless and worried that her plans for an electric scooter obtained from a different source have fallen through. Can we help her? Our incredible team at the store hustled one into the van and Pam rushed to deliver it to her hotel on the other side of town in time for Patricia to make her meetings at the Convention Center.

3:00 p.m.
The streets bulge with traffic and people. We watch, mesmerized at the diversity. And we see, in a unique way, just how many of those folks are in wheelchairs, in power vehicles, on crutches and walkers, and using service dogs. There is a lot of curiosity about our makeshift street shop!

6:30 p.m.
Pam and I, along with daughter, Sarah, are participating in a reception featuring Hillary Clinton tonight. Count Me In, the organization behind the Make Mine a Million $ Business Award that we won last year, is hosting the reception in honor of the 88th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the right to vote as a full citizen. We will speak briefly about our journey as part of an introductory theater piece honoring the women who have gone before. We thrill to be in the middle of it all, and to be playing a small part ourselves! See us here at our "rehearsal" the night before with the real actors, Director, Billie McBride, and Hilary Blair, who conceived the piece.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Kathryn Blogs at the DNC

We are so excited to be part of this historic week in Denver, the site of the Democratic National Convention.  Dave, our service guru, and I will have quite a view of this incredible city and all the goings on next week from our Capabilities Mobile Unit at the SE corner of Stout St. and 16th St. Mall.  You can guess that I am going to write about it.  Check our blog for notes on what we are seeing, people we are meeting, and opportunities for helping visitors and residents alike stay mobile and on the go while they are in town.  

Dave has spent part of the time this week gathering tools, buying a few new ones to take on the road (a portable drill and portable air compressor, for example), and tuning up a few power chairs and scooters to have on site in case folks have underestimated the effects of high altitude and are looking for a rental.  The idea of our fleet zipping around Denver all week makes us smile and feel very proud of our business.

I have been focused on the details.  For example, how can we make two parking spaces feel warm and welcoming?  But we do have a canopy tent to protect us and folks from the heat and rare moments of rain that might happen.  And, chairs.  It’s important to take a moment to sit, especially if you are waiting for us to repair your trusty mobility equipment. Pam has had to stop me from moving a lift chair into the space!  We’ll have some water and snacks, too.  I drove to our assigned parking spaces on Friday to check out the surroundings.  How thrilling to realize that starting Monday we will have the chance to take it all in.  I have spent a lot of time on figuring out what types of products will people really need while they are making their way through the city.  Our staff has some great ideas; so do our customers.  You will find the usual things you might expect from a service designed specifically for this event to repair and service mobility equipment, batteries, bags and related accessories.  We’ve added cushions and seats that anyone can take with them to Convention Center and later on to the Pepsi Center and Investco Field, especially if you are one of the folks in the peanut gallery!  Magnifiers, eyeglass repair kits, oxygen tubing and cannulas.  Don’t miss the seat canes!  You can easily carry this thing while you walk, but when you need to get a load off, just flip it open and relax.  Nice!  

So, stay tuned as Dave and I take Capabilities on the road to downtown Denver.  We’ll even have a city map with us to give directions to our many visitors.  We are ready to do our part to show off Denver and the West during this, at least for us, once in a lifetime experience.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Choosing Tubs

Pam and I are pleased to introduce you this week to our Featured Product, the Sanspa Walk-In Tub. We recently decided to add this tub to our collection at Capabilities. We would like to share some of our thinking about this decision.

Some of you know that we have featured walk in tubs since we opened our doors three years ago. We watch for new products all the time and we stay open to bringing different brands on board. A category like this is considered a specialty product. In other words, not everyone is in the market for a walk-in tub the way many might be for some of our other products. For example, nearly everyone can use or will use a bath bench or a pillow or back support of some kind. When it comes to the bathroom, many are reluctant to consider a new tub because all they can imagine is the cost of remodeling.

We always have (at least) three things under consideration as we purchase products for Capabilities:
Is this product relevant in some way to our customers?
Does this product have a price point that we believe is manageable to our customers?
Does this product fit with our overall plan for managing our business?

We know walk-in tubs are the way of the future. So many people are examining all the options for staying at home. Transforming the bathroom is key to this plan.

The cost of updating bathroom is perceived as prohibitive to some. We find that often folks are missing valuable information about how to make their bathrooms safer and more pleasant.

We believe that the costs can be manageable if you make the right decisions. We love this tub because it is practical and beautiful. It fits nearly perfectly in the place of your current tub. So, the much feared muss and fuss of a bathroom makeover are virtually non-existent. We also offer a basic installation fee of $1500 which pretty much covers most situations. Of course, we will do a free in-home assessment to be sure there aren’t some extremely difficult situations to maneuver through that would increase the cost.

So, one big feature for us was finding a tub for which we could quote a basic installation price. We also have the person-power to be sure we can make your experience with buying and installing this tub seamless.

The biggest seller for us on this tub, however, is its look and design. The profile of this tub is a bit bigger than others we have sold. After much feedback from customers, many of whom are Boomers who are looking for a soaker tub that satisfies aesthetics first, we are attracted to this tub for its spaciousness. It measures 51 inches long, 32 inches deep, and 42.5 inches wide (slightly less than a standard tub). With massage jets, comfort armrests and a build in pillow, this tub becomes your own personal spa!

Ultimately, it offers not only a wonderful bathing and soaking experience, but safety in the tub. With an easy access door that swings out, built in grab bars and an ADA standard 17 inch seat, you will feel comfortable and independent as you take your long relaxing bath. This tub holds up to 40 gallons and has a safety thermostatic valve to prevent scalding and comes complete with a handheld shower.

After shopping around, we believe this tub offers many of the features we have heard our customers ask for. And, at $4999, this tub compares more favorably with many of the popular brands found in magazines and touted by TV personalities.

As you plan for your future, think about something that you will also enjoy now. We talk to people every day who are planning ahead, who recognize that pleasures like soaking in a tub disappear all too quickly as age and ability levels change. The bathroom becomes one of the most dangerous places in our homes before we know it.

Stop by and step into our display tub. We’ll give you 5% off one item in our store just for trying it out and finding out more about the Walk-In Tub. If you are not in the Denver area, take a closer look at the tub here. Contact us for more information. If you are anywhere nearby, we can set up an in-home assessment to see if this tub could be right for you or your loved ones.

If you have a favorite product that you think we should carry at Capabilities, please let us know. We are open always to checking out the latest and greatest. We also do quite a bit of research if you have an idea of something you need, but have not found it yet. Email us your ideas or request and we will be in touch.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Blogging also on Disaboom was founded by Dr. J. Glen House, a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation who is also a quadriplegic. His firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities and those whose lives they touch has driven the mission: to create the first comprehensive, evolving source of information, insight, and personal engagement for the disability community.

And now Kathryn is blogging there. Read her first article on Disaboom and be sure to catch her continuing posts.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Don’t Throw It Away!

We get calls everyday from folks who have mobility equipment in need of attention. We find that there are only a few places that will do repairs these days. It seems to be the same with everything. (Have you ever tried to find anyone to repair a toaster oven?) Things are built to last just so long and it’s actually less expensive in some cases to buy a new one. While I won’t say that is not the same with some types of mobility equipment, I can say that we have been able to salvage more than one electric scooter, power wheelchair, and four-wheeled walker! And, it does not matter if you did not buy it at Capabilities. (Although we highly encourage you to do so the next time you are in the market!)

We recently repaired a wheelchair that got some heavy damage on an airline. We offered a rental wheelchair to the woman whose trip nearly got ruined because of the damage, and worked to get her chair fixed in short order. And, there’s the story of Susan, whose reclining lift chair quit on her just as her back issues got worse. Our folks were able to help her figure out what was wrong over the phone by asking a few key questions. Once diagnosed, we were able to get the part over to her and fix that chair quickly. Even if you don’t live in Denver, we may be able to help you troubleshoot enough to get a good sense of whether the problem is fixable or not. And, with our network of folks who care, we can often find you a place near where you live. We will most certainly do our best anyway!

Then again, we do have a few stories about things that showed up for repair that barely had any metal left on them. We do our best, but there are limits. One wheelchair was over 12 years old. The frames had changed so many times on this type of chair that we just could not find the parts to fit together. While it was hard for our customer to accept, she finally agreed to purchase a new chair, which ended up being a great decision for her. The new version was lighter weight and easier for her to manage, as it turned out. Sometimes new is better!

Be sure to check out our Frequently Asked Questions in our Repairs section for troubleshooting tips on your wheelchairs, walkers, and canes. And, do not hesitate to contact us for to discuss what might be going on with your equipment.

We also occasionally sell pre-owned power wheelchairs and scooters. Or, we know of folks who are selling their used equipment. Please call us if you are on the hunt for something pre-owned and we might be able to help out. If you have a power wheelchair or electric scooter in exceptional shape that you are looking to sell, call us. We might just want to buy it from you, although we are awfully picky!

Do you have a repair story to tell? Please post it here if you do.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rocky Mountain High

If you are of a certain age, you will remember most vividly this anthem John Denver wrote. Debate went on for a very long time about just what kind of “high” he was singing about. Now, the song simply evokes pleasant memories for many, and some sorrow that John Denver died so young.

We write about a different rocky mountain “high” this week. Altitude sickness. If you already live in Colorado, as we do, chances are you are well accustomed to the high altitudes. Denver, the Mile High City, is literally a mile above sea level, or 5,280 feet. But, if you come from the coast, as I did a decade ago, getting used to living at this height takes some time.

If you have visitors coming this summer, or if you are one of the many who plan to come to Denver for the Democratic National Convention in August, planning for the visit should include an awareness of the symptoms of altitude sickness. While most folks can acclimatize easily at altitudes below 8,000, the shock of even being a “mile high” is too much for some. I had headaches for nearly a month when I first moved to Denver from San Francisco. And, the first time I went to elevations of about 10,000 feet, I got very ill with flu like symptoms for several days.

So, what goes on at high altitudes? The air is “thinner,” as they say. In other words, the body has to work a bit harder to keep the blood saturated with oxygen. It does this by producing more red blood cells to help carry the oxygen, but it takes a bit of time for the body to “acclimatize,” to adjust to the new conditions.

Here is what to look out for within the first 48 hours of being at a higher altitude than you are accustomed to:
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • Sleeplessness
  • Swelling of feet and legs
If your symptoms are more severe, you should see a doctor.

To combat these effects, take it easy the first 24 hours of so, although stay active. Sleeping drops respiration levels naturally, so if you are already not getting enough oxygen, your symptoms may increase if you try to sleep right away.

Accelerating the acclimatization process is critical in combating the effects of high altitude. Stay on top of a few things and you should get through it just fine. For example:
  • Avoid strenuous exercise and activities during the first 24 or 48 hours.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Some say up to 4 quarts a day if you can.
  • Be extra careful with alcohol, since its effects are heightened (no pun intended) at high altitudes. If it takes you two drinks to feel something at sea level, you will most certainly feel the alcohol’s effects with one, for example.
  • Avoid tobacco, too, because of its impact on your lungs.
  • Eat a high carbohydrate diet for the first few meals, some experts say.
Talk with your doctor about medications that can help you ward off the effects of high altitude.

Consult with your health care professionals if you have heart or lung disease before arriving at your high altitude destination. If you already experience edema, or swelling, for example, you may want to wear compression socks or stockings during your stay to minimize any further swelling or discomfort.

There is nothing quite like time in the mountains and you will want to enjoy every minute of your time in Denver or other parts of Colorado. If you prepare and plan on taking extra good care of yourself during the first few days of your stay, you will have a great time with minimal ill effects.

Do you have a “Rocky Mountain High” story about altitude and how you coped? Post your story here. If you have questions or would like to look into buying or renting various products that might enhance your comfort while in the Rocky Mountain state, please contact us. Be Unlimited during your time in Colorado! Visit us at Capabilities.