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.