Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fountain of Youth?

Time magazine published an article this spring (3/23/09) titled, "10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now." There were the usual references to "green" initiatives and technological advances. And then came #5, "Amortality." Author Catherine Mayer coined the phrase as she wrote about how aging Boomers are changing the paradigm of growing older. She notes that the number of cosmetic surgeons in this country, for example, has tripled since 2003. Here's how Ms. Mayer describes her newly minted term. Amortality is more than this ripple effect of aging Boomers' resistance. "Amortality is a stranger, stronger alchemy, created by the intersection of that trend with a massive increase in life expectancy and a deep decline in the influence of organized religion - all viewed through the blue haze of Viagra." Her tongue-in-cheek remarks give way to serious paragraphs revealing this "trend" driven not only by dreading the aging process, but outright denying it through physical interventions, including surgery, and scientific explorations going beyond the temptations of cryogenics into "radical life-extending and life-enhancing technologies." These potentially life-shifting perspectives and discoveries challenge the common wisdom that "aging is a natural thing that is going on independently of disease." Dr. Aubrey deGrey, a Cambridge university gerontologist quoted in this article calls this so-called everyday knowledge "nonsense." His research is focused on stopping aging altogether.

"Amortality" is a boon to the economy, Ms. Mayer argues, touching every arena from music to clothing, to vacations to drugs (note how much Viagra and Cialis have become household words), to gadgets and foods. So, what does this trend really mean for those of us who may be more accepting, shall we say, of the fact that aging is a part of life. Surely the boundaries of aging have expanded over the years. And the recent film, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," turns the framework upside down with the worst effects of old age appearing right at the beginning of life bringing this boy man into ever-strengthening youth, ending finally when he becomes a tiny baby again.

As I work with individuals and families every day facing the challenges of aging, I see the insistence on independence and creating quality of life, the willingness to push and pull and do what it takes to stay alive and able to make decisions about how to live life as fully as possible. Don't only think replacement hips, knees, and Lasik surgery. Consider the proliferation and accessibility of products to make home safe and manageable, stairlifts, easy-to-access tubs, and power vehicles.

So maybe the word "amortality" is a new one, but this so-called "trend" of extending life and living it to the fullest is in fact as old as the hills, or at least as old as Plato, who wrote first about "aging backwards." Ms. Mayer concludes that if this trend does not sound so revolutionary, "it's only beause amortality has already revolutionized our attitudes toward age."

What are your thoughts about "amortality?" What are your tips for living fully and endlessly? What else changes when we think about ourselves as "amortal?" Share your ideas in a post or email me.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Low Vision August Event Postponed

Please note that we have cancelled the August 3 low vision event featuring Dr. Paul Cutarelli and Ron Demske, our Eschenbach expert. We plan on rescheduling the event once our expert consults his schedule. Please stay tuned for more details shortly.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Health Care From Our Perspective

The health care debate can stir passions in a heartbeat! As President Obama tries to tackle this thorny topic, we hear about how the House and Senate debates are going. We hear, too, from insurers, businesses and individuals as all wrestle to find common ground. Unless you are in the durable medical equipment (DME) or home medical equipment business (HME), the ordinary person does not get a view from this perspective.

While we do not solely identify ourselves as DME or HME, we clearly have products that fall into those categories. We also spend our days working with individuals and families who face situations that they expect qualify for help from private or government insurance plans. As business owners in this field, Pam and I are often the messengers of bad news. In so many cases, neither government sponsored or private insurance companies cover what the ordinary, everyday person considers a "must have." Sometimes the response is an angry one, as if we, ourselves, have orchestrated events so as NOT to provide coverage. Other times, we see resignation as folks hear the same story over and over again that a particular product is not covered, or that their own eligibility for that product does not hold up under the scrutiny of insurers. And then there are those who fight, who take their case to those in high positions, who push the envelope, who insist that their case be considered. While these types are few and far between, we know they exist. We often do not hear the outcome, though.

So, our story as a business owners is a mixed one. We offer a store full of an array of practical products (and a bunch of unique ones, too) that people might find in five or six different venues, including online stores. We love that we can contribute to someone's independence or a family's set of potential solutions for a loved one in this very tangible way. On the other hand, we all too often have to deliver the unpleasant news that Medicare, or some private payer, will either not cover the item, or will not let us be the provider because we are still an emerging business.

This debate is surely a hot one now in our country and it is anyone's guess how it will play out. What is certain is that not everyone will be satisfied, including those of us in this DME and HME business. We are looking to make a living. Individuals are looking to get what they need at a minimal cost given the years of contributions they believe they have made. Private insurers want profits. The government wants to keep its promise that affordable health care is possible for every American. Good luck on this one! Pleasing so many disparate parties will be a miracle.

What are your thoughts on the health care debate? Post your comments below or email your perspectives. For updates on various health care proposals you can check the government's official site or read the Kaiser Family Foundation's summaries. This site offers a side-by-side analysis of the various proposals in Congress.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Got Squabbles? Conversations With and About the Elders in Your Life

If you are a Boomer, chances are you have already experienced or are about to experience some difficult conversations with the aging relatives in your life. Or, you may be on the verge of becoming the elder in your family with whom others will one day face a similarly challenging conversation. Whether it is about when to hand over the keys, or the checkbook, or when living alone in the family home is no longer safe, the list can be endless when strong wills face each other on the question of personal independence.

We are delighted that our colleagues, Debbie Reinberg and John Rymers, are hosting a forum where families and individuals can speak openly about some of these difficult conversations. On August 10, Debbie and John will be at Capabilities, listening and offering important tips and advice. Skilled mediators, they operate a business called ELDEResolutions in metro Denver, offering their talents and experiences to families facing sometimes one of their most difficult chapters.

As our guest blogger this week, Debbie tells us more about why family meetings are so essential. You can contact Debbie and John at or at 303/268-2282.

Facing an Elder Crisis: Consider a Family Meeting

Some families are able to share emotions and ideas and develop a plan of action, without assistance. A good family meeting creates a process for members to share their personal observations and concerns. And, it also provides a mechanism to march forward, defining roles and expectations clearly.

My family is such a family – most of the time! When my mother started showing signs of cognitive decline (in her mid-60’s), my three sisters and I were each concerned about what that really meant – for my father, my mother and for us. We live in four different time zones and the closest sister to my parents was 300 miles away. So, we started talking. First, it was two people at a time, by phone. Then, we started to use Instant Messaging to have “joint” conversations. Amazingly, Dad started to join us for some of those internet discussions. And, we were able, as a group, to gently share our sorrow and our concerns with him. He really appreciated the emotional support and continued to let us know that the “practical” things were taken care of. As a devoted spouse and a rather young and able caregiver, he readily rejected most of our concerns and did a pretty good job of caregiving. We continued, of course, to worry about his well-being (he had several serious health care alarms during his caregiving years), yet we agreed to trust his judgment and his role as master decision-maker.

And, we still worry. Now that there is no “young and able” spouse/caregiver to make decisions, we worry about Dad’s physical and cognitive health. He certainly likes to control his own life, but he doesn’t seem to be doing activities that truly benefit his wellbeing. Although he moved to be close to one daughter, he often refuses her invitations to join their family for events. He stays close to home. He complains that he doesn’t like to cook, but rejects most offers to join others. He is usually home, alone (unless he is doing a quick errand.)

My sisters and I have been talking. We’re all going to be together for the weekend for a family event. Hoping to have a family meeting – WITH Dad – to share our concerns and help him develop a plan. None of us are typically “bold” enough to just tell him what we think (we tend to be reluctant to “make waves”.)

Perhaps it would be helpful for a professional facilitator to help us get to the next step. A neutral professional could free everyone up to talk openly, in a safe environment - even my father! We could all rely on the facilitator to keep us on track with the important topics and help us actually address the issues that need to be tackled. An impartial neutral could also help ensure that we find the common ground necessary to make the right decisions, as a family.

Sometimes, families just can’t get where they need to be without an extra push.

Monday, July 13, 2009

StrokeLink: A Resource for Survivors of Stroke and Their Families

We are pleased to connect you to the regular publication of Rocky Mountain Stroke Center called StrokeLink. As you know we are big fans of the services that RMSC offers to those in the metro Denver area. We also offer our Capabilities community room weekly for professionally led physical therapy sessions and the aphasia support group.

In the most recent edition of StrokeLink you will find the latest information about support groups and educational seminars in the metro Denver area as well as information about stroke-related vision issues. Find a list of Behavorial Optometrists who specialize in vision therapy throughout Colorado.

Contact RMSC if you or someone you love is living with stroke. Please consider making a donation to this extraordinary organization. As you might imagine, the economic situation facing everyone is especially challenging for non-profit organizations.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bones, Joints, Muscles, Ligaments

Operating Capabilities gives us a unique view into the lifestyles of so many people. While a number of our customers are "seniors," people over age 65, we see very many folks of ages across a wide spectrum. Just the other day I worked with an 11-year old who took a tumble a few months ago and is still trying to figure out what is going on with her ankle. We have one of the few pediatric and youth lines of orthopedic supports in town.

Summer is a big time for broken bones, sprained ankles and wrists, twisted knees and torn ligments. Some folks go see a doctor or PT immediately, others try self-treatments first. We, of course, are not MDs or certified health care specialists, but we do know our way around orthopedic braces and supports and potential tools to help when life gets too rough.

Two weeks ago I heard about a condition that was brand new to me. After nearly four years, I keep thinking I have heard just about every version of what can happen to people, but that is what makes this life choice so amazing. There is always another story waiting for me the next day. I received a call inquiring about leg splints of a certain type. When I began to ask some questions, I learned that "Joe's" family was on the hunt for this type of splint because Joe had been diagnosed with "compartment syndrome" and recently underwent surgery. He would be okay, but recovery required a few supplies. While on the phone, I quickly googled the condition to learn some amazing things.

  1. Compartment syndrome can exist in acute or chronic forms. The acute condition can be fatal.
  2. It is a fairly rare condition but can occur as a result of surgery, a crushing injury to a large limb or surface of the body, or repetitive and extensive muscle use. The leg is one of the common sites.
  3. Acute cases can only be treated surgically. Chronic cases can be treated with rest, elevation of the limb, anti-inflammatory medications, and manual decompression or massage, although surgery is often indicated in these case, too.

Because high levels of compression inside the fascial "compartment" of the area can cause nerve or muscle damage, paying attention to symptoms is crucial. Necrosis or death of tissue is one of the dramatic possible outcomes of compartment syndrome. Extreme deep, severe and consistent pain, more intense than the visible injury seems to suggest, is one of the most significant symptoms. This type of pain will not be quieted with medications, OTC or prescribed. The sensation of "pins and needles" is also common. Swollen and shiny skin is also common with this condition. Full paralysis is a late symptom as is a lack of pulse. Measuring pressure subcutaneously is a relatively easy procedure nowadays, so consulting medical professionals immediately is advised.

As I have said many times, Capabilities brings us so close to challenging situations that are part of people's lives everyday. These experiences not only expose us to conditions and circumstances we would not otherwise know about, but it gives us the opportunity to be part of finding solutions, whether directly or indirectly. We are always grateful to be invited to participate in the ways we can.

Contact us first when you are on the hunt for products and solutions to help you and those you love face an ordinary situation - a sprain or pulled muscle, or something extraordinary like compartment syndrome.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Independence and More

According to, independence is a word not only about freedom, but about victory and triumph, a successful ending or conquering of a struggle. In our world at Capabilities we meet people everyday who fight for their independence, who conquer the challenges life hands them, who exult in the victories, big and small, that keep them not only alive, but thriving. Our hats off to them and to everyone who stares fear in the eye and does what has to be done. We appreciate the opportunity to work with you and families, providing or helping you find the tools that will help you focus on independence.

Speaking of independence, try out the newest product on the market that combines a rolling walker and a transport chair. Medline has just released its Translator, a lightweight combo unit that transforms easily and effortlessly from one piece of mobility equipment to another. Imagine a day at the zoo with your grandchildren. You start out early in the day with your 4-wheeled walker with a seat, stopping here and there to admire the animals and other attractions. Sometime after lunch you feel quite exhausted and ordinarily would have to stay put or go wait in the car, prompting your family to pack up and leave. With the Translator, you can simply flip over the backrest and pull the footrests from the side of the walker and voila! you have a great wheelchair to sit in while your family pushes you. You can enjoy the rest of your time easily.

Come by our showroom for a test drive or take a closer look at this terrific product.
Read Kathryn's reviews of three combo walkers/transport chairs on the market today in

Monday, July 6, 2009

Featured Event: A Place for Your Stuff, All of It!

Is your stuff taking you over? Are you thinking of "right-sizing" but do not have the faintest of idea of where to begin and how to tackle it? Has a loved one been gathering "stuff" for years and you find the task hard now to convince him/her to make decisions about what is essential and what not?

Sally Allen, President of A Place for Everything, joins us again on July 21,2009 at 3 p.m., offering her expertise and practical approach to right-sizing. Read an earlier blog about Sally's work with a client and some of Sally's tips. Learn some basics from this workshop and find out more about Sally Allen's approach to projects big and small. RSVPs are highly encouraged for this popular event.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Guest Blogger: Sally Allen of A Place for Everything

We are pleased to present Sally Allen, President of A Place for Everything. As a Certified Professional Organizer and a Certified Relocation & Transition Specialist, Sally knows what to do with stuff. She also knows that a person's "stuff" holds memories, emotions and sometimes the very soul of an individual. Handling those treasures carefully and thoughtfully differentiates these services from those of more traditional moving companies. Sally writes about a situation that might sound familiar to many of you. Please join Sally on July 21 at 3 p.m. at Capabilities for her free workshop.

After reading the story about "Where the Journey Takes you Next", I thought about the trip I just made to CA to help guide the journey for 86 yr. old Aunt Sue from Independent Living (she definitely stayed independent way too long) into assisted living in CO to be near her daughter, Mary. I had never met Mary or Sue and was looking forward to meeting and providing assistance with the transition/move management process.

Two days before her departure from CO, Mary had a lively and spirited phone conversation with Sue. The day I arrived at the Independent Living community in CA, I found Mary sitting at the head of Jane’s bed holding Sue in her arms and trying to feed her. Sue could not sit up, nor keep her eyes open, nor feed herself, nor speak in sentences. One day before our arrival Sue had a very significant drop in physical ability. She had been sent to the hospital and with no significant findings she was sent back to her apartment. Mary and I realized that Sue was in no condition to be at home and called First Responders. Sue was returned to the hospital.

I have never before walked into the "crisis" environment while attending to the letting-go and relocation process. This was a first for me, and took me places I never expected to go. I was reminded how important it is to get your house in order before the crisis sets in. I truly understood the language of tears.

Mary spent the rest of her visit with Sue at the hospital while I researched and organized our next steps. I realized that there was an abundance of sorting and editing that needed to be done regardless of Sue’s whereabouts. I called in another organizer who lived in the area and fortunately was also a Certified Relocation and Transition Special (CRTS).

We dug through the art room and the craft room that had paintings and projects that were started and not completed. We collected boxes of fabric that were going to be used “some day”. We consolidated Sue’s clothes so that Mary could make better decisions about what to leave behind and what Sue needed and could fit in her small closet at destination. We found vital documents and financial papers scattered throughout the apartment.

We checked with Mary as to what was important to her and Sue, and encouraged Mary to make some ruthless decisions about what Sue needed to surround herself with in assisted living. We took three vanloads of “give aways” to the art institute and to the quilting center the first day. We returned to continue the sorting and editing and categorizing for another day and took one more vanload of items to charity.

In the meantime the search was on for new accommodations for Sue in CO as it was obvious that she would not be accepted in assisted living at this time, and would need to be in a skilled nursing and memory care community. Through my contacts and senior care associations I was able to find a bed for Sue in a skilled nursing community near Mary in CO. This brought up some major new decisions about what stayed behind and what would be shipped to Sue’s, one room, smaller quarters in skilled nursing.

Ten days later Sue was finally released into skilled nursing in CA and the caregivers were desperately trying to get her stable enough to fly to Colorado. Let us not forget that during Sue’s days in the hospital we were frantically proceeding with sorting, editing, identifying (while loading up the car van) what must be packed and shipped and what must stay. Originally, the transporting of Sue’s belongings to CO was thought to be a shipment too small for a moving company. I found a pack and ship company that could handle the transport. As the chaos continued, it became evident that neither Mary nor Sue would be able to make many of those ruthless decisions about letting go and saving only the treasures that would fit into the new apartment The transport of Sue’s, larger than expected, shipment to CO was still up for grabs and was in process.

Our next concern was if, and how, Sue would get to CO. Again, though my contacts in NASMM (National Association of Senior Move managers) I was able to find a company in Chicago that is dedicated to giving peace of mind when transferring an ill, injured or elderly relative by air. Their Registered Nurses fly for a living. They accompany travelers on commercial flights, but also have experience with patients on air ambulances, as well as arranging for and attending to the needs of those on charter flights. I am reminded through this whole process that it takes a “team” to get you to the “village”.

Two weeks later, Sue became stable enough to be released for transport and was transported successfully from CA and settled into skilled nursing in CO.

Several days later I visited Sue in her new environment and was totally taken aback at how she had transformed herself into a perky, feisty, and full of smiles “young” lady. She is adorable.

Just last week the skilled nurses reported to Mary that Sue could move from skilled nursing into her own apartment in memory care. Mary proceeded to visit the memory care unit and was extremely despondent with the level of activity and awareness of the residents living there. After much discussion and sole searching, Mary went back to the original assisted living community to ask them to visit Sue and make an assessment of her abilities to live in the assisted environment. They gave us the thumbs up and we are now in the process of relocating Sue to her new home.

My concern is that Sue may truly not be able to stay assisted, but Mary has made the determination that if Sue only lasts in assisted living for even 2-3 months, at least she will have lived a more energetic life for a bit longer, and Mary is ready to move Sue again if necessary. I asked myself….how can I argue with that reasoning?

Now all we need is for the shipment to arrive so that we can make Sue’s apartment into her new home. The decision has been made to ship everything and sort, edit, and find storage in Sue’s new, larger apartment during the settling-in process. As an organizer, we would suggest to those of you reading this blog, to ruthlessly sort and edit before the move to save money (you pay to pack, load, unload, your clutter) and precious time at destination. In this case the crisis had set in and became the dominant factor in the relocation process.

We know that every nook and cranny holds memories. The thought of leaving them behind is overwhelming. Look at it this way; you are making choices of what physically goes with you and what mentally stays with you. Planning ahead is crucial. Remember that the letting-go process does not get better with age, and the greatest legacy you can leave your family is to have your house in order before the crisis sets in.

In retrospect, one wonders if, subliminally, the 86 yr old body went into toxic stress due to the upcoming journey. Relocation stress is defined as a state in which an individual experiences physiological and/or psychological disturbances as a result of transfer from one environment to another.

We are ready and eager to create a new home for Sue, full of her treasures.

Post Script: Sadly, Sue passed away a few weeks ago. Our thoughts are with her and her family.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Summer Doings at Capabilities

While summer is generally a quieter time for seminars and workshops, we find ourselves this year with a terrific line up of special events in July and August. Of course, you can always check our the latest in our Events section of the website, but we thought we would give you a teaser on a few of the headliners coming up.

July 21 features Sally Allen, our guest blogger this week. Sally offers a free workshop on how to manage your "stuff," keeping in mind just how precious all that stuff really is.

On July 29 our space fills with a group of Denver area psychics who offer readings for the low price of $5. They used our space in April and June to see what kind of "energy" they would find here. We are happy to report they called it "fabulous," and are meeting here on a more regular basis. Come in for a terrific evening! And consider holding your meetings here in our great "energy" space.

August 3 brings another low vision seminar to Capabilities, one of our most popular events. Dr. Paul Cutarelli of Cutarelli Vision, brings his expertise as a corneal and cataract surgeon to the table. He also will discuss non-invasive treatments for dry eyes, a common issue as we age. Immediately following the event, Ron Demske, the vision expert from Eschenbach, the worldwide manufacturer and distributor of high quality magnification, will meet with individuals to explore magnification solutions. This segment is by appointment only, so be sure to make your reservations to meet with Ron.

On August 10 our colleagues, Debbie Reinberg and John Rymers of ELDEResolutions in Denver, host a workshop for families to help ease the difficult conversations they have with and about elders. Watch for Debbie's blog on Resolving Family Issues coming up in our next newsletter!

And on August 18, Bonnie Price, Founder of, a community for and about women of a certain age, comes to Capabilities to speak about reinventing instead of retirement. A reception with libations and other treats follows her presentation. This has the makings of a great summer evening out! By the way, I write for Read my articles on caregiving.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

July Is UV Safety Awareness Month

Ultraviolet rays (UV) are everywhere! The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has named July as UV Safety Awareness Month. Exposure to the sun intensifies in the summer as we spend more time outdoors and expose ourselves to reflected UV rays while playing in the water, on sand, and walking or riding bikes on pavement. The AAO recommends that you:
  • Wear sunglasses or solar filters that screen UV-A and UV-B rays. Your eye doctor can check your sunglasses to be sure they offer protection from both types of rays.
  • Wear a wide brimmed hat to offer additional protection from the sun's rays.
  • Wear goggles while swimming. Pools, ponds and lakes have plenty of bacteria that can enter under eyelids and contact lenses. Wash your eyes after swimming.

In spite of the body's resilience to sunburn, damage to the eyes can occur even with one serious exposure. Like sunburn, the outer effects may disappear, but the effects can be devastating over time. Age-related macular degeneration can be traced to over-exposure to the sun. Cataracts are a major cause of vision problems with older people.

At Capabilities we carry a line of solar filters developed by our primary vision supplier, Eschenbach. Available in a number of tints - amber, yellow, orange, polarized gray, plum -, each designed to help control a different type of issue, all Eschenbach solar filters provide protection from all UV rays. There are options to wear over eyeglasses and those to wear alone if no eyeglasses are necessary.

Do you wear solar filters or sunglasses? Post your comments and questions about protecting your eyes from UV damage.