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.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lots of News

Pam and I are delighted to share a few bits of great news for us at Capabilities. Both of us have been nominated as finalists for the Outstanding Women in Business Awards sponsored by the Denver Business Journal. Every year the DBJ opens the competition to the Denver metro area. We have each been named in separate categories, too, just to make it all the sweeter for us. Pam is a finalist in the Health Care category and I have been named a finalist for the National Association of Women Business Owners Member of the Year. We thank everyone who has contributed to the process. We are very honored. We are especially grateful, too, to all our customers. It is you who give us the ultimate vote of confidence as you choose to shop at Capabilities and trust us with helping you find what you need.

As if this were not big enough news, we are also lucky enough to have been chosen by the Denver Convention Host Committee as the vendor to provide repair services for mobility equipment for the delegates and visitors to the Democratic National Convention in August. We will occupy a spot (still to be determined) right in the thick of things between the Convention Center and the Pepsi Center to set up a mobile repair service so the delegates can keep moving during their stay in Denver. We will also be instrumental in providing mobility equipment for the delegates who may need extra assistance. We will post details about hours and location shortly as soon as the finishing touches are put on the plans. If you know anyone who will be in need of rental equipment, remember that we also rent electric scooters, wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and Rolleraids, the fabulous knee walker that you can steer!

Our final piece of news involves an alliance recently formed between Capabilities and Handyman Matters, the national handyman franchise headquartered in Lakewood, Colorado. Capabilities and Handyman Matters (HM) have aligned to provide stairlifts to homeowners across the country. With their expertise in home repair and construction services of all kinds, HM has made a commitment to working with homeowners to make their homes safe and sound for “aging in place.” It is a natural extension of each company’s mission. This alliance allows Capabilities to reach across the country, helping people stay independent and in their homes even before we have bricks-and-mortar stores in every state. The program launched in Pennsylvania in July. The intent is to introduce the program across the country in the coming months. We will announce the details of the rollout as they develop. We welcome this newly forged alliance with an admirable Colorado-based business, Handyman Matters.

If you have questions in the meantime, please contact us. For those in the Denver Metro area, our trained service technicians will continue to install the Sterling stairlifts that you purchase at Capabilities. We are also available to “un-install” and “install” stairlifts you may have purchased elsewhere.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Float Your Pain Away

A few days away can be predictably wonderful; and, sometimes they bring surprise. I took a few days last week to get into these incredible Colorado mountains with the family; I remember just how great vacation can be. One surprise for me was rediscovering the swimming pool. Growing up on the east coast, I never really learned to swim. In the ocean, you learn to jump a lot and to “ride” waves. Over the years I have pieced together enough of an ability to get into a pool and feel okay. I just am never drawn to swimming pools. Once you know the buoyancy (and wildness) of the ocean, it is hard to be in a pool. You can always tell us “ocean types” in a pool; we just stand around for the most part.

This time, though, I jumped in to play with the grandkids. It felt good, then great. The last time I was in a pool, I was much younger and without the various aches and pains that somehow take up residence in our bodies as the years pass by. After a while, you just get used to them, I suppose. But when I was in the pool for a few minutes, I realized that part of what felt so good was the absence of some of the annoying tugs of gravity.

In my own small way, I have a newfound appreciation for water therapy for the treatment of many conditions, from arthritis to an essential element in stroke recovery. You can achieve a greater range of motion and flexibility, and yet there is enough force to push against to strengthen muscles. Swimming provides one of the best aerobic exercises, too.

If you are in the Denver metro area and have arthritis, or are looking for a safe and encouraging place to get exercise, you are in for a treat if you have not yet discovered the warm water therapy pool at the Easter Seals Colorado headquarters in Lakewood. You will find classes as well as open time to fit your needs and schedule. You can find out more by visiting their website or call (303) 233-1666 for hours of operation.

If you have a diagnosis of arthritis, you know there is no known cure for it per se. There are plenty of treatments that range from natural and everyday techniques to medications. Here are a few tips on handling the pain and discomfort associated with arthritis:
Keep moving. Exercise is considered one of the most powerful tools in preventing and combating some of the effects of arthritis. Try swimming! It creates the least impact on your joints, which is where this disease attacks.
Identify repetitive motions that aggravate your joints and painful areas. Change those behaviors as the ultimate solution. Think ergonomically to adjust your reach, grip, bend or grip.
Use wraps and creams to test their effectiveness. Be sure to see our Ther-All collection of braces and supports. And be sure to try Pain Wizard, an incredibly soothing balm created right here in Colorado.
Cold temperatures also exacerbate symptoms of arthritis. Keep the affected areas warm to ensure optimal circulation.

Please always consult your health care professional before you make any changes to your health care routine.

Post a note here if you have arthritis or know someone who does. What do you do to relieve the pain and discomfort? Do you swim regularly? If so, where? Do you know other warm water pools that are available? If so, where are they? Please share what you know here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Washington Park Cares Sponsors Series on Caregiving

We have written here before about this great neighborhood organization, created to ensure that neighbors can stay in their homes as they age. Wash Park Cares (WPC) also focuses on ensuring there are plenty of opportunities to socialize, to learn and to share good ideas.

WPC recently launched this series dedicated to the topic of caregiving. On Wednesday, July 30 at 9:30, Betsy Kelchner, Ph.D., of the Institute of Gerontology at the Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver, will speak about Successful Aging in the 21st Century. She will focus specifically on the ways to accept care, create effective partnerships with caregivers, health care. providers and the community.

This event takes place in Denver in the Community Room at the District 3 police station on S. University Avenue at Iowa St.

Please call 720-381-2470 for more details and to let them know you are coming. This seminar is open to the public free of charge. You do not have to be a member of the Washington Park Cares community. To read more about this great organization, visit

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer Traveling

"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." You might recognize that quotation from Robert Louis Stevenson of Treasure Island fame. As I prepare for a small relaxing jaunt to the mountains this week, I have been thinking about traveling and how it fuels, for so many, a sense of adventure and excitement. In our business we also hear about the challenges for many as they to integrate traveling in their lives with a disability of some kind. We learn a lot from our customers and we think we have helped quite a few think about how to travel more comfortably.

The most consistent lesson is to plan ahead, learned generally by those who have not and have suffered. While many of us love to be spontaneous, it sometimes creates havoc in your life if you have not figured out just what you need and how you can get it BEFORE you start your journey. For example, one of our customers who has MS came in six weeks before her trip to Europe to figure out what type of mobility equipment she should plan on bringing with her. She typically uses only a cane around town, but she knew that with the long hours of visiting museums and cathedrals, she would most likely need something she could sit in. She tried out dozens of wheelchairs and walkers with seat, selecting finally a lightweight transport chair that her husband would push when she got too tired to walk. In fact, they rented it from us as a way to see if it would fulfill their longer term needs for travel in the future.

Another family put together a cool travel packet for their mom who was off to Africa for a spring adventure. She is hearty and healthy, but in her 70s, so the family wanted her to be prepared. They picked out the following collection of things, some utilitarian, others fanciful, all easy to pack. Mom loved the package and said she used everything. She was also the envy of some of her traveling companions!
Joe and Angie stopped by the other day to look for things to get the house ready for Joe’s mother who was coming from Georgia for a visit this summer. She would be staying a few weeks, so they wanted to be sure the house was accessible for her. They were looking for a few affordable solutions for her comfort and safety. They decided on a raised toilet seat that they can then easily remove when she leaves, a Bed Cane to have on the bed to be sure she has a classy and easy way to get in and out of bed on her own, and some Soapy Soles, a fun and handy foot scrubber that attaches to the bottom of the shower with suction cups. Joe also liked the Sling Seat Cane that his mom can rely on as a cane if she needs to, but, more importantly, can flip open as a convenient seat if she gets tired walking around seeing the sites.

As I get ready to go the short distance to Keystone later this week, I am packing up a few things myself. I love my Postura ThermoFoam Pillow, so that will come along. The Book Light, Dycem Jar Opener, and Juzo Silver Sole Athletic Socks don’t take up too much room and will ensure that I can do some of my favorite things while I’m away!

Where are you going this summer? Send us your ideas here. Email us photos if you are using any of our products while on vacation and we’ll post them on our site in the weeks to come. We love that Or, if you have found a great product you think we should carry, send us a quick note and a photo or reference if you have it.

Happy Travels from all of us at Capabilities!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stairway to Heaven…Or At Least to Your Second Floor

Do you know anyone who just does not go upstairs in their home anymore? Or what about Uncle Bob who cannot make it to the basement to his shop without worrying the whole family? I want to tell you about someone who finally decided that it was time to get a stairlift.

Alice had been resistant. A number of months ago her kids told her they were worried about her managing the flight of stairs to the bedroom. She lives alone and had taken a couple of falls in the weeks previous to the conversation. Luckily, she did not break any bones, but the last fall did scare her, too. So, she decided she just did not need to go upstairs anymore. She had a “moving party” with her son and two grandsons. They brought everything she really needed, including her bed, down into the main part of the house. She figured she could just ignore the upstairs. Things were working out okay, but at least once a week she remembered something else that was indispensable, you guessed it, upstairs. One day she literally crawled up the stairs so she could retrieve it. Coming down was torture and she was afraid. “Stop being a baby,” she told herself. “You can live just fine this way,” even though the new clutter was beginning to get to her on the main floor.

“Maybe I should just move,” she wondered aloud one day with her daughter. So, they set about doing the math and trying to figure out if a move this late in the game would make sense to her and her finances. They asked us, too, for some local resources to speak with and we gave them the names of trusted people we know: a real estate professional, some resources at local retirement communities, an elder law attorney, and a financial expert. This team worked with Alice and her family to put together a full set of options with price tags attached.

That exercise convinced Alice that she could afford to stay home, but only if she agreed to make some changes to make her home friendly and livable again. She was shocked to learn that installing a stairlift, for example, could be done for under $3000 in some cases. That’s when Alice came to visit us at Capabilities.

Here’s what happened and here’s how you can outline your own plan for choosing the right stairlift:

The first thing we had her do was ride our demo model on the floor. That helped Alice experience firsthand just how easy a stairlift is to use and how comfortable it is.
She looked at the various models available from the basic to the Cadillac and what’s in between.
Our service expert then went to her home to measure and help refine Alice’s choices for the most appropriate and affordable option given her space and needs.

Alice chose the Sterling 1000 model because it offered her four choices of upholstery on the seat, a sleek foldable seat with a very low profile so when she is not using it, others can easily navigate the stairway, and the slender track. The quiet ride, a feature of all Sterling stairlifts, was also a big seller in her choice of this brand, not to mention that it is the most attractive stairlift on the market today. Alice was won over just as we were by the combination of safety features and style, by functionality and design.

Alice was concerned by what it would take to install the stairlift. Our service experts have been trained and certified by Sterling, so it is a very simple and smooth process in most cases. Once the decision is made on model and the purchase is complete, the stairlift can be installed in less than a day in most cases. (Custom stairlifts for curved and complex staircases will take longer, of course, and cost significantly more.)

So, Alice asked her son and grandsons to move all her things back upstairs and now she enjoys her whole home. She is considering having one installed outside so she can get off her patio into the back yard again. We are talking with her about the outdoor model we offer. And that’s not all.

Alice is sold on the idea that staying at home is a wise decision and an affordable one. She is looking at a number of changes to her bathroom, kitchen and backyard to ensure that she can enjoy everything again and not be afraid. The financial experts she visited with helped her see that investing to make her home safe and comfortable actually costs less than moving right now. Of course, life throws its curve balls so it’s hard for Alice or anyone to predict just how long this choice will make sense for her.

For the time being, though, Alice is delighted and so is her family. When they speak on the phone at the end of each day, no one ever mentions how worried they are anymore. It’s just about the business of everyday life again. Ahhh! What a relief!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cooking at Capabilities

A few weeks ago we hosted a most interesting group, Young Stroke Survivors, sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Stroke Association (RMSA). The group is comprised of folks in their 20s, 30s and 40s who have survived stroke. While a stroke is a huge life changing event, groups like this are inspiring because they focus on engaging in everyday life to its fullest. They pick themes to work on and they have been focused on cooking lately.

They came on a field trip to Capabilities to see the wide variety of tools that exist for folks with disabilities. They were especially focused on cooking tools that they could easily maneuver with the use of one hand. Because our showroom features a kitchen, the tour had all the feel of real life. While the group was wowed by the adjustable cabinets and stove top that we have on display, most of them felt they did not need to remodel their kitchens just yet. They were fascinated by the array of tools that have been adapted for use by people with disabilities. The three things they all put on their lists were:

  • one handed cutting board
  • combined spatula-tongs
  • talking cooking thermometer.

We are looking forward to the next visit when these folks bring some of the goodies they’ve cooked using their new tools! Thanks to RMSA for the incredible work they do providing therapies, support and encouragement to stroke survivors and their families. We are honored to be affiliated with this group and to host the weekly physical therapy and aphasia support groups at Capabilities. For more information, please contact or call 303-730-8800.

Are you part of a group that explores new and different ways to do everyday things for people with disabilities? Please post your comments to tell us about your favorite tools for cooking, gardening and other things. Please also consider a field trip to Capabilities as a group. If you contact us ahead of time about your visit, not only will we do some research to augment our already large collection of most aids for everyday living, but we’ll also provide some refreshments and a small raffle prize giveaway.