Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ease of Use: IMAK SmartGlove

The Arthritis Foundation’s Ease-of-Use Commendation recognizes products proven to make life easier for people who have arthritis and other physical limitations. These products are independently tested by experts and evaluated by people with arthritis. I have been asked to review a number of Ease-of-Use products during May, Arthritis Awareness Month in the US. My mother, who has osteoarthritis in her hands, is helping by testing some of these products, as well. 

The SmartGlove by IMAK is designed to offer "carpal tunnel support," as well as easing hand fatigue, tendinitis and arthritis. According to the box, it is designed by an orthopedic surgeon. The glove comes oriented to fit your right hand, but can be turned inside out to be used for the left hand. There is a built-in flexible support splint running along the top of the glove from knuckles to wrist and something called "massaging ErgoBeads" located where your carpal tunnel area is. ErgoBeads are “exceptionally smooth plastic beads … that … creates a massaging effect to help increase blood circulation, promoting healthy muscle tissue." You can freeze the glove, cooling down the beads which is designed to provide "maximum relief" (I assume relief of pain).

To me, this seems like a fabulous idea. The other reviewers in the Ease of Use program have all tried it and it's come back with excellent reviews. I’ve been following them on Twitter where Felicia Fibro mentions the SmartGlove as providing relief for aching wrists when typing, although it took her a little while to get used to working while wearing the glove. @Cezmaye used it "to get through finals - really reduce swelling."

Again, I relied on my mother for the product testing. My wrists fused a long time ago and therefore haven't given me much trouble - it's one of those moments where severe deformity (in this case immobility) is working for me! Also, thanks to Humira, I don't usually have any swelling. My mother, on the other hand, has osteoarthritis in her hands and have had carpal tunnel problems (including surgery), so she was a perfect candidate.

Before I passed the glove on to my mother, I tried it on myself. Despite getting a medium (where I would need a size small), I couldn't put it on myself. It's tight to put on, which makes sense because it's supposed to provide support and a bit of compression. However, I have very little strength in my hands and arms and couldn't pull it on. Of course, I can't put on a pair of knitted store-bought gloves if the cuff is knit tightly, either, which should tell you something about how little strength I have.


My mother also had a bit of difficulty pulling it on, but did manage. Depending on how much pain you have in your fingers, this might be a bit of a barrier to using the glove. Unfortunately, the rest of her review was fairly negative. She felt it was uncomfortable, made it difficult to type and impossible to use a mouse. She kept it on for an hour and found that it was so tight around her arm that her hand ended up falling asleep! As well, the narrow piece of fabric between her thumb and the rest of the hand bothered her a lot. However, we have a theory that her fibromyalgia was to blame. It makes her very sensitive to pressure and it quickly moves from a sense of pressure into a perception of pain when things are too tight.

I think this is one of those cars that can work great for some and not so great for others. Several other reviewers had a very positive reaction, so I think it's worth looking into. If you have problems with wrist pain or carpal tunnel issues, give it a try. It might do the trick for you.

This was my last product review for Ease of Use program (at least for this go around). I’d like to thank The Address Foundation for getting me this opportunity to try out some pretty nifty products. Both I and my co-reviewer had a lot of fun. 

Other bloggers involved in reviewing Ease-of-Use products are Felicia Fibro, Peachy Pains and Dog in the Dorm: Life with Holden.

Ease of Use: Clarity D714 Cordless Phone

The Arthritis Foundation’s Ease-of-Use Commendation recognizes products proven to make life easier for people who have arthritis and other physical limitations. These products are independently tested by experts and evaluated by people with arthritis. I have been asked to review a number of Ease-of-Use products during May, Arthritis Awareness Month in the US. My mother, who has osteoarthritis in her hands, is helping by testing some of these products, as well. 

The Clarity D714 Amplified Cordless Phone seems to have a nickname. On the box, it says in large, clear letters Loud & Simple. And it certainly seems to live up its billing.

The D714 is an amplified cordless phone with large buttons and is designed specifically for people with hearing loss, low vision and mobility issues. It amplifies incoming sounds 20 times louder than standard home phones. The base includes an answering machine.

We were not able to fully test this phone. It needed to be plugged into an outlet close to the floor and my mother couldn't reach it. Waiting for the day her home care worker comes word make me miss the deadline, so we did a pretend phone call. However, as neither my mother nor I have hearing or vision problems (beyond me being blind as a bat without my glasses), we wouldn't have been able to give a decent review of those aspects.

However, we have opinions about the number pad. Good opinions. As I mentioned in a previous review, my mother has both osteoarthritis in her hands and fingers, as well as the beginning of neuropathy which effects the sensation in her fingertips. For years now, she has been looking for cordless phone that had large buttons with clear separation between the buttons, which would make it easier for her to dial a number, without making mistakes. It has been difficult to find one such poem, since the trend in cordless phone design is to make them smaller and sleeker and not usually affects the number pad, scrunching the buttons closer together, making it seem more and more like one field with very little difference between each number.

The Clarity D714 Cordless Phone to the rescue! This number pad is exactly what we've been looking for! The buttons are large, nicely separated and very well defined. The phone lights up when you press buttons, which makes it even easier to see what you're doing (and, I could imagine, the combination of the large buttons with large numbers and the light would be of great benefit to people with low vision).

The phone itself is also well thought out. It's very light to hold, which was a nice change from the phone my mother already have. It's also very comfortable in the hand and has a nice grip. So many other new, smaller and sleeker phones are really slippery and not always comfortable to hold. This one won't easily slide out of your grip and would be comfortable to hold for a nice long chat.

This is a definite keeper. I love how universal the design is - it solves several common problems for people who are getting older, while not sacrificing looks. 

Other bloggers involved in reviewing Ease-of-Use products are Felicia Fibro, Peachy Pains and Dog in the Dorm: Life with Holden.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ease of Use: Fiskars Titanium Easy Action Scissors

As you may have noticed, this week is a little heavy on Ease of Use review. I made a commitment to post these before the end of the month and miscellaneous life events got in the way of a more even distribution. Hang in there. We return to your regularly scheduled program on Friday. 

The Arthritis Foundation’s Ease-of-Use Commendation recognizes products proven to make life easier for people who have arthritis and other physical limitations. These products are independently tested by experts and evaluated by people with arthritis. I have been asked to review a number of Ease-of-Use products during May, Arthritis Awareness Month in the US. My mother, who has osteoarthritis in her hands, is helping by testing some of these products, as well. 

When I first started the background research for the scissors, I found this on the Fiskars website:

"The Original Orange-Handled Scissors. Introduced to the world first as a quality fabric scissors, the scissors caused quite a stir. Not only was the design radical compared to forged scissors, but also much lighter and more comfortable. The cutting performance was so good forced many of home seamstress to declare the scissors off-limits - the same still holds true today."

Instant flashback! My mother used to sew and she was good at it - in fact, she used to sew her own clothes, as well as mine when I was little (by the time my sister came along, life prevented too much sewing). And I remember the orange-handled scissors - they were an integral part of my childhood. In fact, I don't remember any other scissors, other than my own stunted baby scissors. They may even have been involved in one of the most embarrassing stories that exists about my childhood. My mother had bought a beautiful, expensive piece of fabric for a suit and was halfway done. In those days, we lived in a tiny little house. My room was adjacent to the living/dining room and right outside my door was our dining room table, which served as my mother's sewing table after dinner. One day when I was about four years old, I got up before everyone else and apparently decided to be helpful. When my mother got up, her beautiful half-done suit was cut to pieces and the way she tells the story, I was very proud about helping her make her suit. The only thing I remember about this incident is sitting underneath the dining room table, being very upset because I had done something bad while my mother stood in front of it, no doubt weeping.

Anyway! The Fiskars EasyAction Scissors are a new generation of scissors, made especially for fabric. They have what's called a "spring assist," which automatically opens up the blades, designed to make cutting easier. You only have to squeeze the scissors shut and they open themselves. The Softgrip® handle is designed to reduce hand fatigue and the bent handle design is supposed to keep materials flat while cutting, improving accuracy. The website says that the scissors can cut a wide variety of materials, including denim, silk and multiple layers of fabric. They have a lifetime warranty.

Both my mother and I love these scissors! They are incredibly well thought out, both as a tool and (mostly) as a tool for people with arthritis. They are sharp as anything - we didn't have any fabric around, but tested them on paper compared to regular pair of scissors and they cut like a dream. Very sharp, very accurate - something in the design clearly lived up to the goal of cutting accuracy, because even though I had some trouble using them (see below for details), I could still cut in a straight line. That was quite something.

The handle is amazing. There is room for four fingers on one handle and the other rests in the space in your palm between your thumb and the knuckles of your other fingers. This means that when you squeeze the scissors shot, you are doing so with four fingers placed comfortably on one side, easing the strain on each individual finger. On the other side, you're using your palm, instead of your thumb joint. I don't uses scissors much anymore, but I remember that one of the most difficult things about it was the way my thumb, especially the base joint, always hurt afterwards.

Another thing that protects your fingers from strain is the spring-action. Granted, it takes a bit of getting used to this having the scissors opening on their own, but not long and when you do, it was very, very good. One of those "why didn't anyone think of this before?" moments mixed with "I'm so glad someone finally did!" I have a pair of scissors that I use for pretty much everything, but which are usually limited in my using them for things that only need one cut. If it needs more than one cut, I have to squeeze the blade shut with my right hand, then use both hands to open them and repeat as necessary. It's a pain in the arse and I usually save cutting for my attendants or The Boy. I am completely in love with the spring-action invention. We need more scissors with this design! Hurrah for independent cutting!

My mother and I had two concerns specifically related to hands that have moderate to severe arthritis. The first is the lock that holds the scissors closed. We both really liked that you have to disengage the lock on each side of the scissor, which increases safety around small hands that might potentially want to assist with making a new suit. A-hem. However, it was very tight - again excellent preventative strategy for wee ones who shouldn't play with something this sharp, but also a barrier for fingers that hurt.

Secondly, they are a large pair of scissors. My mother has fairly large hands and used them comfortably. I, on the other hand, have small hands and did not. I could barely get my hand around them – partly due to my hand size, partly due to deformities. However, I do want to point out that when I did use them (not as open as they could get because my hand/grip is too small), I could use them to cut because of the spring-action. That was pretty amazing. There are a number of other scissors in this design, but I don’t know if any of them are smaller. If not, I’d like to suggest to Fiskars that they make two or three of these scissors in different sizes. Because I'd very much like a pair.

Bottom line? A solid A. Make some in different sizes and find a way to deal with the lock issue and they’ll get an A+.

Other bloggers involved in reviewing Ease-of-Use products are Felicia Fibro, Peachy Pains and Dog in the Dorm: Life with Holden.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ease of Use: DuoGlide Sweep Chefs Knife

The Arthritis Foundation’s Ease-of-Use Commendation recognizes products proven to make life easier for people who have arthritis and other physical limitations. These products are independently tested by experts and evaluated by people with arthritis. I have been asked to review a number of Ease-of-Use products during May, Arthritis Awareness Month in the US. My mother, who has osteoarthritis in her hands, is helping by testing some of these products, as well. 

When I first saw the DuoGlide Chef’s Knife, I was reminded of the great quote from Crocodile Dundee: "that's not a knife … that’s a knife.” Big knives make me nervous and I am very grateful that I have attendants who take care of the cutting and chopping for me. Since my mother cooks, she was the natural candidate to test the knife.

The product description tells us that this knife has a unique design for more control and minimized effort. The handle is soft and textured, giving an easy, secure grip. The blade itself is "corrosion resistant, high carbon stainless steel," ground, honed, polished, etc. It's supposed to offer "precise control and reduce wrist, arm or hand discomfort." It also comes in paring knife, utility knife and bread slicer.

As a knife, it's excellent. My mother said it cuts exceptionally well and she will definitely continue to use it after the review period is over. The handle was very comfortable to grip and as you can see in this picture

it allows you to cut without bending your wrist, something that can be very difficult for people who have arthritis in their hands. Previously, I have had this problem solved for me by getting specially made knives where the handle is at a 90° angle to the blade, but that looks sort of very obviously like adaptive equipment. I like that this knife looks like normal knife, while making it easier for people with arthritis to use.

Judging this knife on the basis of someone like me who has significant damage, deformity and strength/dexterity issues is not fair. I did try it and couldn't use it. I don't know if there was a strength or position issue or both. It definitely cuts better when you're standing up and can put some weight behind the downward cut. However, people who are as disabled as I am by arthritis will probably have assistance or the kind of knives that have the 90° angle between blade and handle.

Overall, the DuoGlide Chef's Knife is a definite win. It comes highly recommended by my mother and that's as good as it gets.

Other bloggers involved in reviewing Ease-of-Use products are Felicia Fibro, Peachy Pains and Dog in the Dorm: Life with Holden.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ease of Use: Tramontina Saute Pan

The Arthritis Foundation’s Ease-of-Use Commendation recognizes products proven to make life easier for people who have arthritis and other physical limitations. These products are independently tested by experts and evaluated by people with arthritis. I have been asked to review a number of Ease-of-Use products during May, Arthritis Awareness Month in the US. My mother, who has osteoarthritis in her hands, is helping by testing some of these products, as well. 

The full name of this product is called the Tramontina All Generations10”Covered Sauté Pan - Porcelain Enamel Nonstick. Which is a bit of a mouthful, but it is a very high quality product which entitles it to toot its own horn.

The details of this product according to the packaging are as follows: it has larger handles for a comfortable grip, which along with the lid fixtures have a soft-grip black silicone grip, making it easier to… erm, grip. The handle is also larger, allowing for more comfortable (again) grip. And while we are talking about handles, there is a "helper handle" on the pan for extra support when moving, serving and cleaning. The pan itself has "Teflon Platinum Nonstick" coating, making for easy cooking and cleaning. There is also a tempered glass lid, allowing you to check the contents while you're cooking. It's dishwasher safe and comes with a lifetime warranty.

I have attendants who do the cooking for me, so I passed this one on to my mother. As the pan is recommended for "one pot meals," she set about making one of those. It involved a pork tenderloin, onion, mushrooms and tomatoes and was quite yummy.

As a piece of cookware, this is very high quality stuff. It is very well made and cooked like a dream. And my mother knows from cooking - my dad used to say she was a chef and I agree completely. My dad also used to have a frequent flight of fancy involving opening a restaurant where my mother could cook the meals and he’d wander about, chatting with guests and being the gracious host. My mother used to accept the compliment about her cooking, but shot him down in flames about the restaurant. Repeatedly

As a piece of cookware for people with arthritis, the reviews are more mixed. The larger handle with the silicone grip is an excellent addition - my mother has both osteoarthritis and a touch of neuropathy in her hands and found this very helpful. As well, the "helper handle" which allows you to use two hands to move the pan around is also a wonderful idea.

The primary problem which we both identified the minute we saw the pan and attempted to move it around is the weight. This is a heavy piece of equipment. My mother didn't find it too difficult to move around, but she has a lot of strength in her arms. She lives in a building with a lot of senior tenants who with age have become weaker and more achy, She was convinced that many of them would have trouble lifting the pan. As for me, even if I did my own cooking, I would not be able to lift this at all. I believe people who are fairly young and/or strong or who have well-controlled disease or a milder form of arthritis with not too much damage would find this a terrific product. People who have severe disease activity or damage might find it too heavy to be useful. 

Other bloggers involved in reviewing Ease-of-Use products are Felicia Fibro, Peachy Pains and Dog in the Dorm: Life with Holden.

Friday, May 25, 2012

My Brush with Royalty

This past weekend wasn't just exciting for me, it was exciting for anyone who likes a bit of royal watching. Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall did a lightning visit to Canada and spent about 24 hours in Toronto. As part of the itinerary, they were going to visit the Distillery District, just a hop, skip and a jump from where I live. I had the option of going back to work or taking the day off to go gawk at royalty and try to increase my personal collection of royalty snapshots.

Shall we have a brief pause in which you try to decide what I chose?

On a beautiful summer day - because spring lasted about two weeks here in Toronto - I grabbed my camera, a bottle of water and headed for the lovely historical district. I'd done a significant bit of research prior to leaving and I finally identified the art gallery where the government of Ontario reception was being held. The official address is on the side of the Distillery District, by the parking lot. I sat around for a while, watching the registration table as a truly astonishing number of very well-dressed, sleek looking people stood around and talked to each other, fervently clutching official invitations.  


After a while, it became clear that this was very much a Government of Ontario reception, as there was a special slot on the registration table for MPPs (Member of Provincial Parliament). I didn't recognize anyone, except David Peterson, a past Premier of Ontario (the gentleman on the right - I felt awkward about very visibly taking pictures of people)

Counted four or five fascinators in total and this one was the best.  


I regretted not switching over to my nice purse, convinced I would've been able to crash the party - after all, some friends and I once got the opportunity to crash a party for Mikhail Baryshnikov, so why not Prince Charles' reception? Alas, I had brought the purse we refer to as "The Brick," an old and well-loved purse which would be a complete giveaway that I was very much not on the list.

At one point, I asked a member of the security force if I was in the right place for gawking and he confirmed that I was indeed located in a prime position. Somewhat later, I had a chat with a nice woman with an official Royal Tour ID badge, who told me that no, I should go to the other side because the royal couple were walking through the Distillery. This is when I learned my first important factor of royal watching: security people either don't know anything or lie to reduce the throngs. If you want to know where your quarry will be, ask the harried-looking woman with a clipboard and an ID badge. She also told me that she was there to receive the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. I spent a couple of minutes weighing the pros and cons of leaving my post. Mr. Onley has a disability and I thought he might, in a fit of solidarity, be willing to include me in his entourage. I then remembered what I've read about security on royal tours and gave up hopes of crashing the reception.

On the other side of the building, it was just me and a photographer. I asked him if I was in the right place and this is when I learned my second fact about royal watching: ask the photographers. They know where they need to be. I waited around for a while and got pretty excited about being the only person there, thinking it would vastly increase my chances of actually pressing the flesh of the royal couple (the flesh of their hands), while at the same time feeling bad for them that they didn't have screaming throngs of excited subjects greeting them. At approximately 12:30 PM, about 15 minutes before the itinerary said they’d arrive, a crowd of security walked very purposely around the corner, followed quickly by a running back of photographers. Clearly, arrival was imminent.

This was confirmed a few minutes later, when I was told to go to the other side of the small cobblestone street to create a clear path. Security became more visible

And then, clapping started and before I knew it, Camilla was right in front of me and we shook hands! It all happened very quickly. As she moved on, I spotted Prince Charles in conversation (that elbow in green belongs to Camilla - her staff need to get a better grip on weather in Toronto at the end of May. She must've been sweltering)

Managed to snap a candid shot of Charles laughing

and a second or two after that, I was shaking his hand, too! Let me add a few more of these !!!!! Yes, I know that's dorky, but c’mon! I shook the hand of not one, but two members of the royal family! This means I am one degree separated from the Queen! I was impressed with how present he was. He had made a joke with the people to my left about all of them having cameras and after he shook my hand, he pointed out mine and made a comment about that, as well. We were in the same little bubble for perhaps 3 seconds in the midst of several hundred people and he somehow made me feel completely seen. That's talent. Also, both of them were very gentle when they shook my hand. I like that they had enough presence of mind to be careful.

After they had moved into the gallery for the reception, the crowd stood around, chatting and waiting for them to come back out. This is when I discovered that Charles and Camilla were not the only crowned heads present. Miss Universe Canada was also there. My primary impression of her was awed admiration that she could navigate cobblestones in these shoes

and that she really needed a sandwich. Way too thin. Lots of people wanted their picture taken with her and I took pictures of that happening. This gave her the impression that I wanted my picture taken with her and one of the roaming photographers helpfully offered to take one with my camera

My somewhat strained smile is due to having not just my camera pointed in my face (very uncomfortable, it's why I'm usually the one taking the photos), but also several others. Because apparently Miss Universe Canada - who seemed like a very nice young woman - crouching down next to the poor crippled girl is the kind of shot photographers want. I suspect I'm on a couple websites and might also have made a newscast. People, people… Must we be so predictable?

After this little moment of being in the spotlight, I looked around and realized all the photographer had left. Which told me that the Prince and his lady were not coming back out on the side, but probably leaving on the parking lot side on their way to another engagement. So I hoofed it back there. My spot was nearly as good, but I did get a shot of Camilla’s face (instead of just her elbow). The building is in pristine focus, she's not. But at least she's recognizable.

And then I drooled at the car. I want a car like that.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Call to Action: Increasing Physical Activity in Arthritis

The Arthritis Foundation is doing something very interesting. They've just released a report with recommendations for environmental and policy changes that can make it easier for people with arthritis to increase their physical activity. Great report, interesting interview with Dr. Patience White, VP of Public Health at the Foundation:

"'Arthritis is a major player in the health tsunami that is coming to America.'
                      - Dr. Patience White, VP of Public Health, The Arthritis Foundation

22.2 percent of Americans over the age of 18 live with one of the over 100 kinds of arthritis. This number represents 50 million people whose lives are affected by these types of diseases. In 2030, 62 million Americans will have arthritis. That's a lot of pain, mobility issues and lost ability to work and participate in the community. The cost of arthritis is greater than what happens in each individual's life. According to the CDC, in 2003 arthritis cost the US economy $128 billion in medical care expenditures and lost earnings. This year, it will cost even more and in 2030, when 62 million Americans will have arthritis, the cost - both individual and social - will be through the roof."

You can read the rest of the post here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


How do you describe perfection? Well, there's the smile of my face that's been around since Saturday. It was the start of my and The Boy's anniversary weekend and we started at Cavalia.

What's Cavalia? It's heaven on earth, especially if you're fond of horses. Which I am. I saw the original show (twice) several years ago and remember it as breathtaking, transporting, mesmerizing and in general the best show I've ever seen. Naturally, I've been checking their website regularly to see when they'd next be coming to Toronto. Last week was the premiere of their new show Odysseo (review with video here). And when we saw that now was the time, we immediately got tickets.


The show was amazing! Mindblowing,mesmerizing, transporting, took you into another world. We were as close to the "stage" as you could get and the only way I could've been happier was if I'd been part of the show. Afterwards, we stood around for a while and with others in the audience, got the chance to talk to one of the performers (his person did most of the talking)

The reason we were standing around was that we'd gotten the kinds of tickets that included a tour of the stables. Let me add a few of these !!!!!!!!!!! because that's how I felt. David said the reason the following photo is a little blurry is because I was vibrating with happiness. I could say it was because no flash photography was allowed in the stables, but who are we kidding? I was vibrating. Mor was, too (part of her seen behind me and just as excited)

Photo by David

Signs of the residents got us even more excited


Walking by the tack room and inhaling the scent of leather... wonderful! Imagine that blended with the scent of horses, one of my top three favourite smells (along with ocean and freshly cut grass). The sounds of the stables were the perfect accompaniment, sounds of soft whickering and blows making it feel like home

Very frustratingly, the stalls had very high walls and all I saw was ears. Until a wonderful staff member opened a door and I met this guy


 Also said hi to this curious fella

This one named Chief might have been my favourite. Got nice and close (wanted to get closer, but we weren't allowed to touch)

 Photo by David

What a gentle soul

Wonderful night and just as the first two times I visited this world, I left a little of my heart in the tents. I'd happily pay money to be allowed to muck out the stables, if only I could travel with them...

Photo by David

If you have a chance, get tickets.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Ease-of-Use: Rexam 1-Clic Prescription Vial

The Arthritis Foundation’s Ease-of-Use Commendation recognizes products proven to make life easier for people who have arthritis and other physical limitations. These products are independently tested by experts and evaluated by people with arthritis. I have been asked to review a number of Ease-of-Use products during May, Arthritis Awareness Month in the US. My mother, who has moderate osteoarthritis in her hands, is helping by testing some of these products, as well. 

Have you ever get bested by a bottle of prescription medication? Y’know the childproof ones that require you to hold the cap down and turn at the same time. I've never been able to open those. And there you are, pain shooting into the stratosphere, the meds that can help you so near, yet so far away. Wouldn't it be nice if someone invented a bottle for prescription medication that was easier to use?

Well, someone has. More specifically, Rexam developed the 1-Clic Packaging System and it has received a Arthritis Foundation Ease-of-Use Commendation. Aside from the audible click that tells you whether the bottle is properly closed, this brilliant invention approaches a secure prescription bottle in another way. To open this one, you press down the tab just below the cap and turn the cap with your other hand.

Lucy was part of the assessment

"That’s easy!" Said my mother upon trying it. I believe that for the majority of people with arthritis, it would be. Very easy, as well as childproof in the same way that the regular prescription vials are.

However, for people like myself who live on the extreme end of the continuum with severe damage and deformity in their hands and very limited strength and dexterity, it may not be. I had a lot of trouble to pressing the tab. My left thumb could do it, but it hurt and as for my right thumb? Fuhgeddaboudit. My pharmacist gives me this type of caps on my vials, but they could be problematic if you have kids in the house.

Overall, this product is a definite improvement on what's previously been available.

edit: there have been a couple of comments remarking on how this tab system looks hard for aching fingers. I want to clarify that I think you have to be very wrecked in order not to be able to use it. My thumb joints are just that: very wrecked and unstable to boot. I think my problem relates more to the instability than the pain and other damage. It's worth giving it a try to see if it'd work for you - once the tab's down even a tiny bit, the cap turns easily.

Other bloggers involved in reviewing Ease-of-Use products are Felicia Fibro, Peachy Pains and Dog in the Dorm: Life with Holden.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A HealthCentral Collection

It's been really busy around here lately, so I haven't had time to give you links to my recent HealthCentral articles. Therefore, you get three for the price of one! May is Arthritis Awareness Monthly in the US and we therefore have a lot of things on the go on HealthCentral's RA site.

First, and most importantly, our spectacular, wonderful, fabulous RA Awareness Contest! This runs through the month of May - deadline for entering is May 31 11:59 PM ET. It has some pretty terrific prizes - three Visa cards  ($275, $150 and $75) that you can spend a medication, chocolate, books or whatever heals you the most at that moment. Not only can you win a prize, but this contest also has real potential for changing the world! Each entry is an idea for building bridges and raising awareness about RA. We hope that at the end of the month, we will have a long list of doable, practical ways of taking action to create community and raise awareness.

The second post is Awareness and Action with The Arthritis Foundation. It includes an interview with Dr. Patience White, VP of Public Help for The Arthritis Foundation, as well an interview with the mother of this year's Arthritis Walk Youth Honorees. The honorees are Amelia and Liberty Shultz, who both have RA. And they are four and two and a half years old. This article also includes information about some pretty exciting initiatives the Foundation is launching this month.

My most recent post is Show Us Your Hands!: A Story of Hope and Community. In it, I interview RA Guy, Cathy and myself about SUYH and our recent photo book Our Hands Can! Yes, I interviewed myself. It was a little weird.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Reachers Can Help You Be Independent with RA and Disability

This is the first post in a new series on helpful tools and doodads for people with RA and disability. 

When we first came to Canada 30 years ago, I brought a reacher with me. It was a terrific reacher - lightweight, elegant and easy to use. During my time in Canada, I've had a number of occupational therapists in my home and they have always collapsed in swoons about this particular reacher. Why? Because it is designed to hold closed. This was new to them because in North America, reachers are designed in such a way that you have to squeeze the handle shut in order to close the tongs at the other end.

This is difficult to describe, so I took some pictures. First, my trusty 30-year-old reacher from Denmark.

As you can see, this reacher is also in two pieces. It was a terrific piece of equipment, sturdy and durable. It gave me 30 years of frequent, sometimes daily use, picking up pieces of paper, pens, food containers, fruit and everything else you can imagine. I used it to turn the heat and AC up and down, cleaned up cat puke with it and threw it on the floor to use with my feet in a sweeping motion under bookshelves and the couch to get at the toy mice that Lucy enjoys whacking under things. It was only when I accidentally drove over it in my 300+ pound wheelchair that it gave up the ghost and even then, not for another few weeks.

So I set out looking for another reacher and this is where things got difficult. Because this is when I realized why every OT I'd ever met was in raptures. Meet the North American reacher.

In my view, there are two things wrong with this type of reacher. The first is the design. Could you get more utilitarian and hospital-like? This is an important tool that many people will want to have it easily available in several rooms of their house. This means it will be visible. How about making it nice to look at, as well as functional? According to one of my miracle repair guys, Scandinavia is generally more focused on design in mobility devices and aids for daily living. That theory seems to be borne out by my original, 30-year-old reacher.

Second, and very basic, the North American reacher suffers the same problem that I often invoke when speaking of the Ontario Building Code. Namely, that it is designed for largely able-bodied people who have trouble reaching the floor.

For most people, their mobility problems are not limited to only the legs, but also affect their upper body, including arms, hands and fingers. The North American reacher requires you to hold the tongs closed by squeezing the handle and continuing to do so until you have finished the task. This assumes you have decent or even normal grip strength. You can – if you look hard enough – find a version of the North America reacher that has a locking mechanism, but as far as I can tell, that assumes that you have fairly normal dexterity and can easily use both hands as you're wielding this contraption. As for disengaging the lock, on this model, it's described as "[a] flip of the thumb releases the lock." Uh-huh. That assumes that you can flip your thumb.

Dear designers of aids to daily living: May I introduce you to your target audience. Y’know… the ones who have disabilities?

It boggles the mind.

Anyway, since I do not have normal grip strength (not by a long shot) and since the deformities in my hands mean that I cannot open my hand wide enough to get it around the "pistol grip" closing mechanism - or for that matter have the dexterity to use such a pistol grip (which assumes you can bend your fingers) - I needed something else. I vaguely recalled seeing something like my old reacher in a catalogue several years ago when I was chatting to one of the other staff in my wheelchair repair place (they not only sell and repair wheelchairs, but also other medical supplies and aids for daily living). I called her up and described the item in the catalog as being "on the right page, and it's a photo of three reachers in red, green and yellow." Based on that, she found what I was looking for

Elegant, funky, easy to operate for people who have a disability in their hands. Opens easily, even if you have limited manual mobility, dexterity and strength. Once you grip whatever you're picking up, you let go of the lever in the handle and it holds tightly shut on it own. Also incredibly sturdy compared to the North American version, which (to be honest) are kind of crap. Of course, if you compare the price of around $25 for the reacher that I can't use to the $143 for the imported Swedish reacher, it's a bit of a difference. But I'm pretty sure this one is going to last me another 30 years, so in the long run, it's a steal!

This reacher is by Sammons Preston (I think they’re the importer – the Swedish name’s different) and you can get it here - $99 in the US. Well worth it. This lightweight, self-closing reacher is also available on Amazon in red (28"/71cm) or green (24" (61cm)), but at a higher cost.

You may also want to read Marianna's post about other considerations when getting a reacher.