Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Featured Product: Our new Mobile Art line!

Capabilities is pleased to announce the launch of its newest product line, released under our own Capabilities’ label, Mobile Art Comfy Crutch Covers and Grips. Designed by Denver area local, Amy Vicioso, Capabilities has exclusive rights to Amy’s whimsical AND practical designs. Made with combined cotton and Spandex fabric and lined with nearly 1.5 inches of foam, these crutch covers and grips are the most comfortable solution when using crutches, bar none. Capabilities’ Mobile Art covers and grips are also machine washable, giving you plenty of usage and peace of mind regarding cleanliness and control over the spread of bacteria, so prevalent with traditional crutch use.

So, if you are using crutches temporarily while you recover from a break, sprain or surgery, or if you use crutches on a more permanent basis, be sure to try a pair of our Mobile Art Crutches and Grips. These are found exclusively at Capabilities, at our flagship location or online.

Please also see our earlier Capabilities’ Mobile Art line, hand-painted canes and crutches, also created by Amy Vicioso. If you are in the Denver Metro area, be sure to come by our flagship location and see the many designs available, or talk with us about creating your own design. If you, or someone you know, is looking for a way to stay mobile and create a fashion statement at the same time, Mobile Art is the answer.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Choosing the Right Wheelchair

A wheelchair by any other name... It’s a common sight that when someone needs a wheelchair, especially for use with a temporary condition, individuals are tempted to find the least expensive option, or to borrow something. “It’s just for a couple of months,” you might say. “I just need it to get myself around while this broken leg is healing.” We can tell you from experience, however, that when it comes to your mobility and independence, taking the time to focus on your needs and do some homework are well worth the effort. Of course, if it’s an emergency, you might find yourself having to decide quickly. Let us help you with those situations, too.

Because you will spend a lot of time in the wheelchair, whether temporarily or permanently, depending on your situation, getting the right fit is essential. We always prefer to have the individual him- or herself with us so we can coach him/her through the experience of fit. Standard wheelchairs, the type with the big wheels designed to help you self-propel, come in sizes with various features meant to work with your lifestyle. Typical seat widths for adults are 16 inches, 18 inches, and 20 inches. You determine the correct width size by sitting in the chair. There should be enough wiggle room on either side of your hips when sitting, but not too much. If you float or move too much in the seat, you will most likely develop sores. Similarly, if you are stuffed into the seat, your skin will suffer bruising and worse, depending on the length of time you spend in the chair. Most manufacturers produce wheelchairs in smaller and larger widths, and are often considered more custom and specialty items. At Capabilities, though, we typically carry extra wide wheelchairs (22 inches), both for purchase and rental. We can order wheelchairs of any size, however, depending on the need.

The other consideration for a wheelchair is the height of the individual. Many manufacturers produce what is called a “hemi.” This type of wheelchair has a feature which changes the height of the chair. Our staff can help you determine whether the chair you are considering has the “hemi” feature, and we’ll make the adjustments for you to try out before making your decision. The hemi feature generally lowers the height of the chair. If someone is exceptionally tall, there are other considerations to take into account. The standard height generally works for folks who are over 6 feet.

With height, however, comes the issue of comfort with footrests. Most footrests on standard wheelchairs adjust with a simple turn of a screw or a button release feature. Once again, trying the chair for functionality AND comfort is essential before you make the purchase.

The type of seat is important, especially if you plan on being in the chair for a significant period of time every day. Most seats on standard chairs are of a vinyl or nylon fabric. We usually suggest purchasing a separate wheelchair cushion to add to the comfort level. There are dozens of types of cushions and the amount of time you spend in the wheelchair and your preferences play a large role in choosing the right one. Pictured at right is a mid-range gel foam cushion. Check a future blog for considerations about cushions.

Of great surprise to most people, especially those caring for the individual in need of the chair, is the weight of wheelchairs. A standard wheelchair is often close to 40 pounds. If you purchase a very inexpensive chair, it might be even heavier. When folded, the chair looks compact, however, when you try to lift it into a trunk, for example, you discover just how unwieldy these things can be. For this reason, most manufacturers now have lightweight wheelchairs, some of which might be as much as 10 pounds lighter, depending on the materials used.

For most temporary uses of a wheelchair the traditional back works just fine. However, this is another element that you should consider when thinking about purchasing a wheelchair. The height of the individual, how long s/he will be in the chair, and what type of condition s/he has are all factors when thinking about the proper fit. Many makes and models will allow for an upgrade or different back on the wheelchair, although you will also pay more for these changes. Fusing comfort and lifestyle into your choice of mobility equipment will help you, or your loved one, cope with the injury, illness or situation more fully.

Price range for standard wheelchairs varies widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. We feature a broad array of choices priced from just under $200 to $2000 or more. Our selections of lightweight wheelchairs ranges from about $350 to many thousands of dollars, depending on the features you prefer. Of course, we also will work with you to customize a wheelchair, or to rebuild your favorite workhorse that has seen better days.

It is obvious that the more permanent the situation, the more you will need expert advise on choosing the wheelchair that best fits your lifestyle and situation. Did you know that Capabilities has a seating and positioning expert on staff? Contact us for more information on how to make the right choices.

Let us know your experience with choosing a wheelchair. Post your comments.

Monday, January 21, 2008

No Name Calling Week!

Be on your guard this week! It’s national no name calling week. Schools will be observing this, perhaps especially, as teachers and parents alike work to help curtail growing episodes of bullying. It struck me as something to mention because of what is a growing debate in our country about what to call us Americans as we age. There is more and more resistance, especially from Baby Boomers, to eschew the moniker, “senior,” a label that became quite commonplace as the preceding generation grew older. We find more and more that even those over 65 now like the expression, “senior citizen,” less and less. Even AARP changed the reference to the acronym (American Association of Retired Persons) in its branding a few years ago, preferring now to use only the acronym.

“Elder,” still preferred in many cultures, comes from Middle English, 12th century references to those with authority by virtue of age and experience. American Indian practices, Asian and Latin cultures, even some European traditions, reserve a place of honor for those who are older, deferring to their wisdom and life experience. Some religious denominations designate leadership roles through the title.

We know all too well in our American culture, however, that growing older does not automatically take with it the respect and admiration of the culture at large. The changing demographics offer an opportunity to reflect, though, on what changes in the culture as 77 million people approach the next chapter of life. Three million Baby Boomers are turning 62 this year! You’ve no doubt seen the Ameritrade commercial featuring Dennis Hopper, bad boy Boomer turned sage, reminded us all that retirement needs a plan. And just count how many “jingles” are songs from the 60s and 70s, meant to tap into the auditory memories of Boomers everywhere.

As we network with other business professionals, we observe many who work for companies that are attempting to work out the language, the “name calling” to target their services to the aging population. How to do this without offense? How to be clear that what they have is what people over 50 need and want? How to communicate, especially with a generation proud of its unique place in American culture, that believes it will age differently, that will, in many ways, age differently?

What do you think about all fuss with name calling? Will Boomers always be Boomers? If not “Seniors,” what? Tell us your ideas and weigh in on this cultural debate.

If this topic does not excite you, then hold on for National Puzzle Day on January 29. We have one that will drive you mad while it delights. Check out Scrambles, the deceptively “simple” puzzle that challenges your brain and your patience perhaps. If you are in Metro Denver, stop by and take the Scrambles challenge. If you can complete the puzzle in five minutes you get one for free!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Oops! Watch Your Step!

Falling! It’s part and parcel of this time of year. Whether you are someone who spends winter outdoors or not, maneuvering through the snow and ice, is a fine art. We always see a lot of injuries at this time of year.

Obviously, you want to prevent a fall in the first place. You can review many practical suggestions in our previous blog on fall prevention. Getting physically strong in the first place takes planning and hard work. Perhaps working on balance and strength training might be part of your list of resolutions. And then, there’s the common sense stuff. Like wearing the right footwear, parking where there is some clear pavement, and using something to steady yourself, the arm of a friend or a cane maybe. If you use a cane or crutches, you will want to have the cane ice tip, a retractable tool that attaches to the bottom of your cane. When you go out into the weather, you simply pull the tip down. It covers the regular tip with a set of metal teeth that grip into ice and snow, providing much needed traction on slick surfaces.

If you have taken a spill, though, be sure to take care of it right away. Last year we saw record numbers of leg and ankle sprains and breaks. When this happens you want ice packs, supports, cast covers, things to make you comfortable while you heal. You may not have heard yet about the Rolleraid, the unique alternative to crutches. It’s a walker of sorts that you rest your knee on, leaving your casted lower leg or injured ankle free to rest while staying elevated to promote healing. This thing gives you mobility again. Roam the halls of work or the mall easily. You can steer it, brake it, fold it to fit in your car. Ours even has a water bottle holder and a basket! Also, if you ever have had to use crutches for any period of time, you can just imagine the relief of the Rolleraid. No more sore underarms!

Tell us about your winter experiences! Have you had a recent break or sprain? If so, how did you handle the comfort issues in particular? We’ll share your list of ideas in a later blog.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

CMT – a Patient’s Understanding and Perspective

This week we have the pleasure of introducing you to Mark Linton who writes about Charcot Marie Tooth Disease, CMT. As someone with this condition, Mark writes from his perspectives, offering not only his reflections, but practical information about the disease. We are honored that one of the local CMT support groups has chosen Capabilities as a place to meet. Their recent meeting was on Saturday, January 5. Rosi Mauch from Athena Labs spoke about DNA testing for CMT patients. Athena is a leader providing advanced neurological analysis. Please watch our Events section for future meetings. You can also contact Diane Covington at (303) 635-0229 or via email for more discussion and information.

We thank you, Mark Linton, for your thoughtful and personal blog. Thanks, too, to Diane for taking the lead in mobilizing the support group. We love collaborating with you.

NOTE: This article is intended to share some personal knowledge / insight into CMT and some of the ways it has affected my life. I am neither a physician nor an expert on this disease, therefore I make no guarantees of complete accuracy of any of the information that I am presenting here, as it is based upon my own (mostly laymen’s) understanding of the disease.

I have been afflicted with CMT since I was a youngster (approximately age 10), and through the years I have had to learn how to cope with, and in some instances learn to accept, the limitations it has imposed on my life. However, it has also been a constant learning experience and challenge to not allow CMT to control my life. The key has been to constantly find the balance of adhering to my known limitations, while also allowing myself reasonable freedom and growth to prove to myself that there is always a lot more things that I can do in life with CMT, than there are things I cannot do because of it.

In my own experience, I have found that CMT seems to be a largely unknown and / or misunderstood disease, both by the general population and Physicians alike. CMT stands for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (pronounced “Sharko-Maree-Tooth”), and no, contrary to common misconception when reading the name, it has nothing to do with one’s teeth. The three words are actually the last names of the three Physicians that first discovered the disease in the 1800’s. Other names I have also heard it referred to are Peroneal Muscular Atrophy and Hereditary Motor and Sensory Neuropathy. It is a peripheral nerve disease (usually inherited) that primarily affects the feet and legs, but also affects the hands and related fine motor skills such as writing, fastening buttons, etc. There are many different subtypes of CMT, and I was diagnosed with type 1A (supposedly the most common form). CMT inhibits the conduction of peripheral nerves and the result is muscle atrophy and wasting in the feet, legs and hands. In more rare cases, breathing can also be affected.

Some commonly visible symptoms of CMT are a high arch of the foot (although this can be at least partially remedied with surgery), thinner than normal calf muscles, abnormal walking gait (i.e. a “slapping gait” where the patient lifts their feet higher than normal during walking to avoid tripping and falling), scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and thinner than normal wrist and hand muscles. The abnormal walking gait is a result of muscle atrophy in the foot causing “foot drop” where the foot drops down during walking and can cause tripping. AFO’s (Ankle Foot Orthotics) can help with this condition by preventing the foot drop. The high foot arch is also caused by muscle atrophy by causing uneven pulling and tension on ligaments and bones.

Some non visible symptoms (usually only apparent to the patient), are balance problems (a result of the muscle atrophy) and somewhat related lack of “knowing where your feet are” especially after sitting for awhile, decreased sensual feeling in the hands and feet, pain and cramping in different forms, calluses on the feet resulting from the high foot arch, decreased hand / gripping strength, etc.

There is currently no cure for CMT, although there are assistive devices that can help with everyday activities (i.e. AFO’s, mentioned previously, button fastening tools, etc.). Other important aspects in managing CMT are regular, conservative to moderate exercise to help prevent muscle tightening as the muscles weaken, and pain management as necessary. Unfortunately, some patient’s muscle atrophy eventually requires them to use walking assistive devices or even wheelchairs.

Another very important aspect of managing the disease (in my own opinion), is belonging to support groups such as our group that meets at the Capabilities store in Westminster. This provides an invaluable resource in many ways, both practically and personally. We recently had a guest speaker (Martin McCorkle) that has CMT and came to Denver to share his own experiences with having the disease. He also wrote a book describing some of the major accomplishments and achievements that he has done in spite of having CMT. Hearing Martin talk was truly an inspiration. That, along with the camaraderie of others afflicted with CMT and how they have dealt with it, provides insight and a “personal touch” that can truly improve anyone’s perspective that has the disease. Diane Covington, who started this support group, compiled a fantastic Resource Directory that includes recommended physician’s names, preferred retailers for such things as shoes (based upon group member’s experiences), and much more, all relevant to CMT. There is another CMT support group in Denver that is primarily run by the MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association), as it is a disease covered under MDA’s umbrella as well. So, Denver area based CMT patients have several options available to them.

I hope you have found this article interesting and informative regarding Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Please feel free to contact, Mark Linton, for more discussion.
Please also feel free to post your comments or questions here.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Rocky Mountain Stroke Association

We hit the jackpot this week! We have two guest bloggers. We love inviting folks from the community to tell us their story, or to highlight something that’s important for them. If you would like to be a guest blogger, please contact us.

We have mentioned on other occasions that we have a very special collaboration with the Rocky Mountain Stroke Association (RMSA). Every Wednesday the Capabilities conference room turns into the RMSA community room, delivering physical therapy and speech therapy. This year the program expands, with the addition of speech assessments and soon, a music therapy group. We’ll be sure to tell you about this new group as soon as details are available.

The folks at RMSA have written a blog explaining their services and inviting you to participate. Please contact them at 303-730-8800 for more details.

RMSA has been serving stroke survivors and their families in the Denver metro area for over 15 years. The agency was founded by a group of professionals and stroke survivors in Littleton who saw gaps in both public education about stroke and recovery options for “life after stroke”. “Life after stroke” is an ever changing continuum for stroke survivors and their families ranging from the onset of stroke as a medical emergency through the emotional, social, and physical adjustment to the body and brain changes that result from a clot or hemorrhage. “Life after stroke” continues when survivors hit therapeutic “plateaus”, the insurance runs out, caregivers feel frustrated, or the visitors slow down. It continues when survivors return home to their communities, their homes, and the art of living. RMSA, whether at the main office or satellite locations, offers a unique community of its own and supports survivors’ engagement within the larger community.

RMSA continues to work to make rehab services more accessible to survivors in north metro Denver at its satellite location in the Capabilities community room. Capabilities has served as a happy home for our operations for the past year or so and we are ready to expand and explore! The Westminster Aphasia Group is thriving with over 10 regular attendees and therefore will begin meeting weekly in January 2008! Physical therapy currently meets weekly. The class has space for a few more stroke survivors interested in increasing mobility, balance, and strength. And last, but not least stay tuned for the introduction of music therapy into our repertoire later this winter. Music therapy is a hit down at the Littleton office and more and more research is showing that it does help clients reach physical, speech, and cognitive goals. If you are interested in further information, give RMSA’s main office a call at 303-730-8800.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year!

Here it is! Like many of you, we are approaching this new year at Capabilities with all the optimism and freshness typical of this time of year. We’ve got plenty of resolutions, too, and most of them focus on you. We are committed to continuing to deliver you a practical AND unique array of products for comfort and mobility. We are lining up new seminars and services, too. It’s an exciting time for Capabilities as we implement many of your ideas, all of your support, and our enthusiasm and energy to make shopping at Capabilities among the best you have. We thank you again for welcoming us into a new year! Please continue to share your comments and suggestions with us.