Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Colorado Seniors Resource Connections

Colorado SeniorsWe are proud to introduce you to Barb Harmon and Brian Troccoli, Founders of Colorado Seniors Resource Connections, an organization that works with families to match the right services to the needs of aging parents and relatives. If you have not yet had to face the many questions and challenges that confront families as loved ones age, you most likely will have a chance at some point in your life. Finding the ways to balance physical safety and needs with the fierce desire we all have for independence is no easy task. Barb and Brian work with every kind of service provider, personally screening them, allowing only the ones they would entrust their families to into their network. Read more about what motivates Barb and Brian and some of their experiences in their guest blog below. You can post your comments here or at the end of their blog. You can contact Colorado Seniors Resource Connections at 303-380-4300 or navigation4seniors.com.

We, Barbara and Brian, are proud to introduce our company, Colorado Seniors Resource Connection, LLC to you. Colorado Seniors Resource Connection, LLC connects seniors and their families to the many resources available to them to help maintain independence, and continue to live the quality of life they expect and deserve. We have both been involved in serving seniors in the Denver community for many years, and have a sincere and honest passion for them. As we worked within the senior focused healthcare industry, we began to notice that seniors and families were often overwhelmed and confused by the number of resources available, often imagining that there is no one to help them.

When Mary A. called us, she was desperate. She lived out of state, and her mother, here in Colorado, had fallen a couple of times. Fearful that the next fall would cause a hip fracture, Mary decided it was time to help her mom think about how to live as independently as she could AND eliminate the worry Mary had constantly about the falling. Mary could not leave her commitments out of state, and her mother did not want to move from Colorado. Mary called us not sure where to turn and how to get there.

We also see that sometimes seniors and families don’t even know what they need, let alone how to get connected to the services that can best serve those needs. As a result of our experiences with people like Mary and knowledge of what is available, we are able to give personal attention to each senior and family member to guide them through the aging process so they feel empowered and confident. We personally screen each resource within our network to ensure they provide care with the compassion and integrity you expect and deserve. We believe in connecting seniors with only those providers we would allow to care for our own families. You can trust that the providers within our network consist of only those companies we know practice with integrity and a true passion for serving you and your loved one.

“Seniors are our passion and our love, we want to serve you or your family in any way we can. Let us navigate you through the process, we will not steer you wrong. This is our promise to you.” Barb and Brian

All services to seniors and families are ALWAYS free of charge.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Carman’s Corner

Carman Keene writes her blog this week, inspired by spring and its festival of colors, sounds and scents. Carman and her husband, Sam, who lives with MS, get out and about a lot. She writes about their experiences and the many events they attend and ideas they have on events that are accessible. If you have your ideas about upcoming events in the metro Denver area (or anywhere, for that matter, as our newsletter is getting broader and broader distribution), please post a comment with details here. As always, it is a pleasure to introduce you to our friend and supporter, Carman.

Everything is beautiful... Aren’t the colors of lilacs gorgeous this year? Gardeners must be delighted with the feast of color recently at the Botanic Gardens and other greenhouses and nurseries with full displays of gorgeous hanging baskets and flats of blooms.

How is the color in your world? Ours is gold right now as Sam and I prepare for our 50th wedding anniversary. How long have you been with the love of your life? Tell us about some of your favorite colors and times together!

The color in our world wouldn’t be nearly as gorgeous if we hadn’t bought a traveling scooter for our car. It has opened a whole new world for us to get out and enjoy experiences again. If you would like to consider having one, too, why not simply use your Economic Stimulus check. (If you think you haven’t received your check yet it might have been deposited in your checking account if you received money back from your taxes that way.) Capabilities have a terrific deal on a little Go-Go Elite scooter right now. It is usually $1,595 but for a limited time will be $1,295. (You’ll almost have enough with your Economic Stimulus payment if you received the full amount for a spouse: $1,200). They install the car lifts, too. Look at Our Products or soon you’ll be able to shop with them at their online store, currently being revised to feature their whole catalog of products. What are you planning to do with your Economic Stimulus? Post your ideas here.

A traveling scooter for you would be a gift beyond compare, as it was for us. We can now go into any restaurant, stroll through aisles of flowers, or complete our plans for a trip to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. You could come, too. I’ll tell you more about the music, mountains and magic at the Festival next time. Consider buying a scooter and joining us. We are the 50-year married couple with the candy apple red one!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

This Apple Didn't Fall Far from the Tree

Sally Allen, Founder and President of A Place for Everything, presents a free seminar at Capabilities on June 5 at 10:30. (See Events to learn more and RSVP.) Sally has a most fascinating job as she gets invited into people’s lives to help them sort through their treasures, make room for what’s next, and ensure that loved ones are considered. In this seminar, she introduces you to Right Sizing, and offers some tips for everyone who loves “stuff.” Sally offers courses on Right Sizing as well. Read on for one of the typical situations Sally often finds herself in. If you love stuff and have too much of it, tell us about it here. To contact Sally, please email her.

A month or so ago we received an apprehensive phone call from a prospective client who was having a life altering change in her thinking. She was nervous, she was excited, and she was challenged. Her family was coming for Christmas and did she have a secret surprise for them!!

We will call her Betty. Betty had just spent an entire year culling through her mother’s home that no one in her family had been allowed to enter for 12 – 15 years. When her mother passed away and Betty was allowed to turn the key and open the door, she realized the why and the magnitude of the why.

The scene was apocalyptic. The narrow channels leading from the entrance to the rest of the house were lined on both sides with 5-foot high piles of stuff and probably “treasures” hidden in among the accumulated stuff. Betty wondered where her mother slept, how her mother ate, and what her mother was feeling in this environment. Betty was shocked, but also realized that she had been raised in a smaller version of this environment, and that she was a close relative to this phenomenon. Without going into the details of the hoarding environment and the full year process of elimination and preparation in order to settle Betty’s mother’s estate the upside is the beautiful part of this story.

When Betty would take a break and come home for some R&R she saw it, got it, and felt it. "It" being the same tendency for hoarding that she inherited from her mother. When Betty phoned us it was with such passion that she said, “I saw it, I went through it, and I will not do this to my children.” Can you help me?

We began the downsizing process the very next week. My team of two worked with Betty one room at a time. We are on our sixth session and have about four more to go. It has been such a pleasure and experience to work with Betty who is so determined to make the change and is doing so with much enthusiasm. We have taken at least 5 bags to Good Will and 30 garbage bags to the curb, and many trips to the recycle center. I asked Betty, “What is it like for you to have so much uncluttered space?” She admitted that it was uncomfortable at first, but every day she was allowing herself to absorb the space and allowing herself to enjoy it. Betty was and is totally committed to this process. This is what I love about my profession. This is what gives me so much joy when I see our clients, feel it, get it, and understand it.

Hoarding is a sabotaging disability, which can be overcome bit by bit, with understanding and determination. We do not expect Betty to make a complete overhaul, but we can certainly help her take small steps to get where she wants to be. I would love to be the fly on the wall when her family arrives for the holidays and realize what a powerful gift she has given them.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Colorado Post-Polio Connections: An Educational Conference

We have so many terrific alliances through our work with Capabilities! On May 10, 2008, we sponsored an educational conference hosted by Easter Seals Colorado and Colorado Post-Polio Connections. What a day I had meeting people from all parts of Colorado and nearby states who joined each other for seminars, conversation and sharing.

Post-polio Syndrome further accelerates the damage done to the nerves during the aging process, sometimes 30 to 40 later, for those who suffered with polio myleitis. The results vary, leaving some individuals severely paralyzed. What is most remarkable is that PPS also strikes those who had experienced full recovery from the initial polio viral illness. One woman told me that it was only a few years ago that she experienced some swelling in her foot, which was finally diagnosed as PPS. She now rides in a scooter whenever she is out of her home. PPS is not contagious as there is no recurrence of the viral infection itself.

Polio raged in the U.S. in the first half of the 1900s. Jonas Salk developed the first vaccine in 1955. Polio has been virtually eliminated in the western hemisphere, but still exists in a handful of countries (Afghanistan, Egypt, India, Niger, Nigeria, and Pakistan).

I was most impressed listening to the stories of folks who contracted polio as children in the 40s and 50s, primarily. Several spoke to the crowd about their treatments at Warm Springs, GA, a rehabilitation center made famous by Franklin Roosevelt, among others. Carol Beebe and Dr. Marny Eulberg, a Colorado specialist treating those with post-polio, and who herself had polio and has PPS, narrated a video of Warm Springs. Carol had photos from when she was 5 years old and a patient there. I recalled being a small child when the word went around our neighborhood that one of the nearby kids had contracted polio. My memories are that the adults talked a lot about protecting all of us, and about that child, who had to spend time in an iron lung. I asked some of the folks I was lunching with at the conference about iron lungs. No one at my table spent time in one, but several also had memories of the children in their ward living through that machine that compressed the chest to assist with the breathing process as nerve damage affected the chest muscles so critical for breathing.

Dr. Eulberg reviewed the findings of a study released from the Mayo Clinic in 2005 that has stirred controversy among the population with post polio syndrome. After a 15 year study of about 50 individuals with PPS (15 of whom died through the course of the study), the Mayo Clinic determined that the decline in those individuals was on average about 3% per year, roughly the same as the general population over a similar period of time. Dr. Eulberg disagrees firmly with the findings based on her own case and those of the dozens she treats. She says the sample was not big enough and the muscle groups tested were insufficient. By focusing on the big toe and the thumb only, she believes the study did not capture the key muscles groups affected by polio for a great number of those who had the infection years ago. I was fascinated to hear to her analysis, followed by the stories of those who spoke about their own physical decline over that same period of time.
Among the Capabilities products that attracted the most interest for those attending the conference, there were three that were a huge hit. One woman bought the Sit Disc air cushion as soon as the conference started so she could be comfortable sitting for so many hours. Her table mate was so impressed she came out at a break and wanted one, too. They both reported significant comfort as I checked in with them. Others gathered around to check it out for themselves. The Book Peeramid also drew attention. For those spending lots of time in a wheelchair or sitting because of their condition, this book pillow rests comfortably on the lap (or against the knees if reading in bed) and provides a perfect place to rest the book. There is even a tassel bookmark to hold your place. And, what would life be without the amazing reacher. We featured the PikStik Reacher at the conference with the pivoting head and locking mechanism. It comes in different lengths, too, including a small one that works perfectly when seated. One gentleman loved the extra tall one so he could finally reach the cereal box at home!

The session that caused lots of interest and affection featured Freedom Dogs, specially trained to help those with disabilities. One of the participants spoke about how much independence she now has as a result. She came to Colorado from Florida so had a lot of fear about maneuvering in snow and ice. Her Freedom Dog stays very close to her affected leg and provides safety for her as they both now have made their way through many a winter together. A trainer arrived with a dog at the early stages of general training. That dog still had a lot of work to do, but delighted the crowd with his antics. I was amazed to learn that dogs can be trained to turn on the washing machine, put clothes into the machine, and take them out of the dryer. Freedom Dogs are matched to the condition of the individual and go through extensive training.

I offer my thanks to those who taught me so much and shared so many of their experiences. Their feedback and interest in the many products we provide at Capabilities help us find the right tools for independence, so critical to folks with disabilities.

If you or someone you know would like more information about the Colorado Post-Polio Connections support groups and events that are held throughout the year, please contact Nancy at Easter Seals Colorado at 303-233-1666 x237 or Marlene at 303-689-7669. If you were at the conference, please post your thoughts and reactions to the sessions. And, if you are a polio survivor who is now experiencing the effects of post-polio syndrome, tell us about your experiences.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ramps and Spring

I read an article recently about ramps. It took me a minute to get oriented. The author described the origin of the word as “ram,” the early English word for wild garlic. What? It turns out that ramps are also wild leeks, a kind of green onion or scallion. Who knew? It reminded me, though, that I have wanted to write about the other kind of ramp for a while now. The kind that helps you access places and experiences you might not otherwise be able to do.

The U.S. made accessibility the law in the 1990s. Of course there were ramps before then, but I know I did not see as many. And most at the time were primarily made of wood. While wood is still preferred among many, you will find more and more aluminum versions, especially when a temporary ramp will do the trip.

Learning about slope has been an interesting process for me and our team. The ADA has its requirements for new construction where the ratio must be 1:12. This means that for every 12-inch rise the slope cannot be greater than 1 inch. This means that if you are trying to get a ramp up two steps, each of which has a rise of 6 inches, you would need a 12 foot ramp. Most manufacturers of portable solid, threshold and multifold ramps will advise that you should not exceed 2 inches per 12 inch rise if the chair or scooter is occupied. That means for that same 12 inch rise as above you would need a 6 foot ramp. Some folks have able-bodied individuals with them while they travel in a van, for example, who can move the vehicle unoccupied up the ramp into the van or SUV. In these cases, it is possible to consider 3 inches for every 12. So, in our example, you could use a 4 foot ramp. The slope would be steep so upper body strength would be essential, and, as we said, no one could be riding in it.

People are always surprised about how much runway they truly need when considering a ramp for a home or a vehicle. The choices are many. Multifold ramps come in several lengths, providing the option of using only when needed. I find I can move and carry a 5 foot or 6 foot multifold ramp due to its design and compact shape. However, once the ramp crosses to 8 feet or more, it’s like lifting cement. I just cannot do it. Always being clear about the strengths and limitations of any mobility and accessibility device will save you so much frustration!

Threshold ramps are increasingly popular as people look to stay in their homes regardless of their physical conditions and situations. Threshold ramps, also in sizes to accommodate the height of thresholds in homes, allow for easy access into rooms that might otherwise present risk of falls or difficulty. Always measure before you show up to make a purchase. Guessing just does not work as Amy T. will tell you.

She came in one evening ready to get everything she thought she needed to make her home comfortable and accessible for her dad. He was still walking, albeit it slowly and with a walker. She would buy him a scooter once he got settled in order to facilitate shopping and going out and about with her. For now, she was focused on the bathroom, bedroom, kitchen and living room. She had done quite a few preparations and had her list. As we made our way through the list, I asked her a number of questions about his abilities and the house. One of the first questions I asked was whether there were thresholds in the home. She stared at me blankly. “I think so. Don’t all homes have thresholds?” We laughed at how easy it is to forget what we live with every day. She called her sister and asked if she remembered. Her sister noticed that she had thresholds, but could not remember. Amy really did not want to go home and come back again in spite of my urgings to do so. She decided to purchase three 8 inch by 32 inch ramps which would be appropriate for a ½ inch threshold rise while he was walking or riding over the threshold. Sure enough, when she got home, she called me right away. Yes, she did have thresholds, but they had a much bigger rise than she had planned for. Bummer! She had to come back after all.

So, measuring is essential to getting the right fit. If you live in the Denver metro area, we offer a home evaluation service. One of our accessibility experts will go to your home and help you make note of the potential changes necessary as well as some product ideas that will help adapt your home, make it safer and more accessible. We also have a complete selection of ramps – not the wild kind – for you to see and test in our spacious store. Our trained staff will be sure to ask you questions to be sure you have covered all bases. Please contact us for more information about this service.

How have ramps changed your life? Post your comment, please.

Take a look at just some of the ramp choices available.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Guest blog: Eileen Doherty talks about Colorado Gerontological Society

This week we are delighted to introduce you to the Colorado Gerontological Society through a blog written by Eileen Doherty, MS, who serves as the Executive Director of Senior Answers and Services and the Colorado Gerontological Society, here in Denver. She has more than 30 years of experience in education and training, clinical practice, research, and public policy in gerontology. You may reach her at 303-333-3482 or Doherty001@att.net.

Eileen writes about the upcoming Salute to Seniors annual event to be held on May 14. It’s an all day event filled with seminars, appropriate vendors and other specialists who can help you and your family maneuver through the many issues of aging and caregiving.

Baby Boomers Connect with Experts for Advice on May 14 at Convention Center

Are you feeling tired and overwhelmed with caring for your mother? Baby boomers all across Colorado are faced with questions about where to turn for help for a parent. But, little things such as picking up medications, quickly become chaotic for families. A stop at the store means Mom might be left alone for too long.

Susie is stressed that her 87-year-old father may be in danger as he sometimes leaves the house and hitchhikes to church, but the police find him instead and call her at work to come down to the police station. Lucky for Susie, her father had her telephone number in his wallet. Although her boss says “he understands”, Susie must take personal leave. The fear of her father being a “missing person” or worse yet, being accused of neglect has haunted her ever since he wandered away from home.

And Sharon is confused about how to file for Medicaid because she has spent all of Mom and Dad’s savings. She can’t care for her mother any longer and knows that she will not be able to afford a nursing home on Mom’s $3000 per month income, but she is overwhelmed about all the jargon and what it means -- Medicaid trusts, functional assessments, Part 1 and 2 of the Medicaid application, case managers, and care managers. Who are all these people and what do they do and why are there so many?

Dawn is only 36 and her 65 year-old-father has been diagnosed with colon cancer with six to eight weeks to live. She does not know the state of his legal affairs and her grief is overwhelming to the point that she cannot even consider the idea of a funeral. Her father wants to talk about his wishes, but she collapses each time he tries to bring up the conversation. The hospital has told her to seek hospice care, but she can’t even remember how to pronounce the word correctly, let alone understand what it means. She feels alone and empty.

If you see yourself in these situations, take a power hour and attend the elder care fair which offers one-stop shopping for baby boomers who are looking to manage a parent’s life, as well as ways to avoid this horribly scary situation for their own retirement. The Salute to Seniors will have more than 130 experts at the Colorado Convention Center on May 14, 2008 from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm to answer questions, present solutions, and increase awareness for baby boomers about problems facing them.

Capabilities is proud to be affiliated with this event. If you are in the Denver area, please stop by and visit us at our booth. We are also pleased to donate wheelchairs for use throughout the day.

For more information call 303-333-3482 or senioranswers.org .

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Capabilities Sponsors Easter Seals Post Polio Conference on May 10, 2008

For more information contact Nancy at Easter Seals Colorado 303-233-1666 x237.

Easter Seals Colorado works with those with disabilities, including those with post polio syndrome or PPS. The organization sponsors numerous support groups throughout Colorado. You can find details and contact information on their website at eastersealscolorado.org.
Read more about post polio syndrome...

Post-polio syndrome (PPS) is a condition that affects polio survivors years after recovery from an initial acute attack of the poliomyelitis virus. PPS is mainly characterized by new or renewed weakening in muscles that were previously affected by the polio infection and in muscles that seemingly were unaffected. Symptoms include slowly increasing muscle weakness, high levels of fatigue (both generalized and muscular), and, at times, muscle atrophy. Pain from joint degeneration and increasing skeletal deformities such as scoliosis are common. Some patients experience only minor symptoms. While less common, others may develop visible muscle atrophy, or wasting.

PPS is rarely life-threatening. However, untreated respiratory muscle weakness can result in breathing problems, and weakness in swallowing muscles can result in aspiration pneumonia.
The severity of weakness and disability after acute polio tends to predict the development of PPS. Patients who had minimal symptoms from the original illness will most likely experience only mild PPS symptoms. People originally hit hard by the poliovirus and who attained a greater recovery may develop a more severe case of PPS with a greater loss of muscle function and more severe fatigue. It should be noted that many polio survivors were too young to remember the severity of their original illness and that accurate memory fades over time.
According to estimates by the National Center for Health Statistics, more than 440,000 polio survivors in the United States may be at risk for PPS. Researchers are unable to establish a firm prevalence rate, but they estimate that the condition affects 25 percent to 50 percent of these survivors, or possibly as many as 60 percent, depending on how the disorder is defined and which study is quoted.

Patients diagnosed with PPS sometimes are concerned that they are having polio again and are contagious to others. Studies have shown that this does not happen.

Through years of studies, scientists at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and at other institutions have shown that the weakness of PPS is a very slowly progressing condition marked by periods of stability followed by new declines in the ability to carry out usual daily activities.

At Capabilities we have an array of products, from wheelchairs, walkers and canes to products for everyday comfort and practicality, such as, pillows and adjustable beds, and strengthening tools to help you address the symptoms of PPS. Please contact us for details and suggestions.
Please leave a comment if you are a post polio survivor with one tip or product idea for someone else who is facing the challenge of PPS.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Featured Event: Low Vision Appointments

Low Vision expert Linda Belyeu-Conklin comes to Capabilities’ flagship store on May 8 for one-on-one meetings with individuals looking for solutions to address their low vision. If you find you just cannot use your handheld magnifier anymore because your eyesight has changed, Linda will show you an array of technological options, including those that will “read” to you. To meet with Linda, please RSVP on our Events page, or call 720-214-0339 for an appointment.

Read more about low vision…

As those of you who know Capabilities are aware, we host frequent low vision seminars on a variety of topics and featuring local area experts in the field of low vision and research on conditions affecting vision. Among the many doctors who have presented are Dr. Robert Gold, Dr. Jennifer Tasca, Dr. Kara Hanson, and Dr. Donna Ellinger, all practicing in the greater Denver metro area. We also feature state-of-the-art low vision tools to assist with reading, writing, and staying active. Our seminars will continue in the fall as we plan for another great interactive seminar. Please check our Events schedule for updated information. And don’t miss the Pico, a portable video magnifier that you can take with you anywhere!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Product Testers, Come One, Come All!

If you love checking out the latest gadgets and getting the scoop on what’s coming, AND you love giving your opinion, then you will want to come to Capabilities’ New Product Showcase on June 3, 2008 at 6 pm. to 8 p.m. Pam and I host an event every year where we showcase some of the new products to come our way and ask customers and others to join in for a fun evening of review, including trying out the things and giving us feedback. We also provide refreshments!

At this year’s event you will see a combination of brand new products, just released to market, some that have been around but are new to us at Capabilities, and some invented by locals who are looking for some good testing and feedback as they refine their product before it goes to market.

Last year’s event drew raves from both vendors, inventors and “testers” alike, all interacting, discussing and sharing ideas about solutions for everyday people facing everyday, often challenging, situations.

Please consider being a tester for this entertaining and important event. We value your opinions and take them into account as we make decisions for new lines and products. Please call us at 720-214-0339 or email us with your interest in participating and for more details.

If you are not in the Denver area, but would like to be considered for “long-distance” product testing, please contact us, too. Not only we will be expanding to other national locations over the coming year, but we engage folks everywhere to check things out for us when we can’t see them all. And, if you know of great products that you think we should carry and make available, please let us know. You can also introduce us to inventors and others who are looking for ways to increase awareness of potentially good solutions and products.

You can post any comments you might have about products, testing or other ideas right here. Thanks.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Compression Socks: Not Just For Grandma

During the course of our days and weeks, we see countless customers purchasing compression socks and stockings. Some folks have used these garments to great effect for years, so it’s an easy errand for them to run. They have already worked through the burdens of feeling somehow stigmatized by having to wear these things. They know how great they make their legs feel and that’s what is driving them now.

However, we see many a droopy faced individual clutching a prescription, sheepishly inquiring about “those socks for swelling legs.” It’s true that if you have never seen compression socks lately, much less worn them, you might have images of Grandma in her hospital bed with what looked like tight, white stockings pulled up to her thighs. Shake that image off (although I will tell you more about those white stockings later in this blog).

Compression stockings have a long history, having early roots in Europe. Tightly wrapping areas of swelling, of course, is an intuitive response to inflammation and discomfort. Egyptians mastered the art of wrapping and brought it beyond death with the art of mummification. Native peoples created balms from roots and plants and applied before wrapping. The art was handed down and eventually companies emerged in the 1800s refining the fabrics and knitting methods. In 1912 the compression stocking factory, Funk und Viertel, was founded in eastern Germany, then considered the stocking capital of the world. A young craftsman and businessman created a new method to weave the stockings instead. His son, Julius Zorn, Jr., learned at his father’s side and grew the company significantly. By the 1930s, his company was distributing throughout the world. Forced to close operations because of the war, future generations reopened in West Germany coining a brand, Juzo, derived from the original founder, Julius Zorn. The techniques and methodologies continued to break new ground, with Juzo being the first company to produce a latex-free stocking in the 1960s. Their technology also allowed the garments to be machine washed and dried, something that still helps the brand stand out among many that have entered the field. The company came to the US in the 1980s with one of the original Zorns still at the helm.

So, why does compression work to reduce swelling? Swelling is a result of poor circulation, whether from a temporary situation such as standing on your feet too long on hard surfaces, and post surgical procedures, or more serious conditions such as congestive heart failure or lymphadema which is often a result of breast cancer surgery or other conditions that impact the lymph system. Through the weaving technique the garment provides enough pressure to work with the body’s circulatory system, aiding in its ability to circulate blood through the venous system. Contrary to some folks’ worries, compression does not “cut off circulation.” In fact, when fitted and worn properly compression stockings assist in circulation, providing relief and comfort to legs and feet.

Graduated compression is an important term to know. And here’s where your Grandma’s white stockings in the hospital bed come in. Many folks mistake graduated compression hose for anti-embolism stockings, also known as TEDS®. These stockings are intended for non-ambulatory patients or those confined to a bed or wheel chair. It is common in recovery rooms and post surgery for physicians to prescribe these stockings for patients to prevent coagulation (thrombosis) and stimulate blood flow. They are typically white and are of a thicker knit often with an opening at the toes. Anti-embolism stockings have a universal compression throughout ranging from 8-18mmHg. So, you can see that those stockings definitely have their purpose, especially when Grandma was recovering from her fractured hip when you saw her in the hospital. While wearing anti-embolism won’t hurt you if you are ambulatory, they often won’t help you as much as you would prefer. If you are up and about and still have some swelling, or conditions more serious, such as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), graduated compression is what you need and want as part of your health plan.

Graduated compression stockings are medically therapeutic and designed for people who are mobile. They work with a “graduated” effect, providing 100% compression at the most distal point, being the ankle and decreasing up the leg. The ankle is usually where blood will pool when circulatory issues are present, so having the highest level of compression at this point creates the best effect. The compression is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Graduated compression stockings are manufactured in compression ranges: 12-20mmHg, 20-30mmHg, 30-40mmHg, 40-50mmHg, and 50+mmHg.

Graduated compression stockings coincide with specific medical indications. Stockings below 20mmHg are available over-the-counter (OTC) and compression levels above 30mmHg require a medical prescription. You should always speak with your doctor first about appropriate therapies, including compression stockings. Over-the-counter levels of compression are safe for everyone, however. They have been made all the more popular with the introduction of colors, soft and silky new fabrics, and ease of wear and care.

So, don’t stay away from compression socks because you cannot shake that image of Granny. Compression is not just for those who are aging or ill. People in all walks of life, and at all ages, including police officers, military officers, and medical professionals themselves, wear compression hose every day. I met someone recently who hikes a lot, serious hiking. He wears thigh high compression stockings to help with his circulation. He finds it an important tool in fighting leg fatigue.

If you want to take a closer look at compression stockings and check out Juzo and other brands for yourself, visit us at our flagship location, or online. Email or call us with your questions. Our staff is trained on the full range of compression options, including how to easily don compression garments and take care of them.

If you wear compression and would like to share your opinions, please let us know your thoughts here.

Read more about compression in our earlier blogs.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Caregiving on All Fronts

When you are the one to provide care for someone who faces a permanent or temporary illness, injury or other condition, you know instantly that your world has changed. Not only does your day require more hours than ever before, but you require more stamina, patience and support than ever before. Some might be more suited to the tasks ahead, but life often does not give you the choice or test for your competencies.

One of our recent customers came in looking weary. He has been at the task for a few years now after his wife suffered a stroke. While she has achieved some abilities over these years, she still requires enormous amounts of care. He comes in frequently on the hunt for new ideas to make her life, and his, more comfortable. On this recent visit he said the skill he needs in great abundance is patience. Every caregiver will name that and a dozen other qualities they need and thought they never had.

I recall one conversation when my brother faced his last months with cancer. As I became a primary caregiver for him, I remember answering the question posed me by someone dear. “You don’t really know what you are doing!” I stared a moment, then said, “No, I don’t. But I’m confident I will know what to do and when.” We both sat in silence for a few minutes, stunned at my response. I look back at that moment often with a sense of disbelief on the one hand, and pride on the other. I am not sure how I knew with such certainty that I would find my way through that most devastating of events in our family, and yet I knew that love and commitment would somehow guide the way. It did, even though we lost our dear one a few months later.

I meet people every day who are pushed and shoved into caregiving, as well as those who anticipate what is ahead and sign up early for the task. No matter the circumstances, caregiving is some of the hardest work around. We have written in this blog plenty about its many facets, the tolls it takes, the unbelievable love and commitment displayed, and the rewards expressed often by those who help family, friends and sometimes strangers face their physical and emotional challenges. I reflect often on what is it that motivates us, that encourages us, that refreshes us while caregiving. I welcome your thoughts here on this topic that one way or another usually touches us all.

While caregiving is a topic I do think about every day as I meet folks like you and me who are looking for tools and solutions to help with their role as caregiver, it is on my mind today with a slightly different twist. This week is National Nurses Week. Whenever I spend time with a nurse, I realize all over again just how amazing is that profession. Having been presented with a situation over which I had very little control in the case of my brother’s illness, I responded by taking on the role of providing care for him. And, I truly did not know exactly what I was getting into and just how many things, both physical and emotional, I would be facing. Nurses, on the other hand, choose to be an integral parts of individuals’ and families’ lives as illness, injury and other situations arise. While we can argue that they “train” for this, I know having watched many at bedsides, that there are so many elements of caregiving that are hard to “train” for. Balancing the technical medical side of health care with the comfort and emotional sides of the dynamic is a competency that requires work and attention.

We at Capabilities offer our deepest respect to everyone in the health care profession, and this week, we especially single out nurses. Please think about a nurse in your life or in the life of someone you care about and say thanks. And, post a story you might have about a nurse who made a difference in your life. If you are a nurse, we would love hearing from you, too, during this special week with your own comments here.