At Home Everyday Gear Good Stuff Shows and Expos

Slick Reacher/Grabber

PikStik ProOne of the everyday aids I did see at WCD Expo was the PikStik Pro. A reacher — essentially a stick with a clamp-like grabber on one end — has been an essential part of my dad’s life for many years now. It’s not just a convenience, but a matter of safety and well-being — over-balancing is definitely not good for Dad!

Come to think of it, just about every household could use a reacher or two in strategic places.

I’ve used lots of reachers that handle chunky stuff (think cans, etc.) but this is the first one I’ve used successfully for a situation requiring a more deft touch.

Using it, I was able to lift a business card repeatedly from a flat, hard counter with no trouble at all — the tips are ‘grippy’ and more sensitive than those on the heavier duty reachers.

For those finer pick-up tasks (pens, pencils, pieces of paper, a comb, etc.), this could be a great solution. It’s available on Amazon and comes in various lengths.

Everyday Gear Shows and Expos

Rant — Few Everyday Aids at WCD Expo

I enjoyed the WCD Expo and chatting with various visitors and vendors, but was left wondering again why there were so few booths showcasing everyday aids. Nichole Medical Equipment and Supply (Philadelphia) had an extensive exhibit of scooters, chairs and accessories and few vendors had miscellaneous items — a buttoning aid, etc., but that was about it.

Maybe it’s too much of a nuisance to haul cartons of small items to a show, but it’s so difficult to track them down out in the wild, and tough to determine if what you’re seeing on a web page will really do the job. Is there a better place to sell the tools that can make daily living easier? Is there better exposure? A better focus group? Honestly, I’d really like to know . . .

Clothing Wheelchairs

Jeans for People Who Use Wheelchairs

Everybody loves jeans — at least, everybody who doesn’t sit all day does. I’ve been thinking about jeans lately because my dad just doesn’t use the pockets in his anymore — he really can’t get to them easily. It’s also gotten very difficult for him to raise his legs by himself — the other day I was joking with him, saying that he needed handles on his pants legs. He thought that was a pretty good idea, and, on second thought, so did I.

So I came home and searched on ‘jeans’ and ‘wheelchair’ and found USA Wheelchair Jeans, who proudly make “pants designed for sitting.”

jeans swatchesAlong with a dazzling array of fabric choices, they offer regular and slim fits and a whole host of custom options. They can add lap and calf pockets and transfer straps to their jeans, and make custom patterns as well. Fabrics are available in 8, 10 and 14 ounce weights. I’m going to order a pair for dad, and we’ll see if they do the trick.

USA’s website is full of information, but terrible to navigate. *Sigh* — will bad websites always be with us?

Related: Review of Khakis for People Who Use Wheelchairs

At Home Gifts Good Stuff Kids Nursing Home Reflections

Companion Pets — Blondie the Golden Retriever

Blondie, Dad's Golden RetrieverAs my dad checked into a rehab hospital after spinal surgery several years ago, I noticed a woman down the hall who was preparing to check out. Actually, it was her companion who caught my eye — a nearly full-sized Golden Retriever: a beautiful stuffed animal perched alertly and affectionately at the foot of her bed.

Dad had lost his beloved companion of 14 years — a loving Golden named Amber — not long before, so my mandate was clear. I learned from his neighbor that her Golden had been made by the Douglas Company of Keene, New Hampshire, and a quick jump to their site let me identify the name and model number. An Internet search turned up a store, and Blondie (as she was quickly named) joined my dad in the rehab hospital.

It’s almost impossible to describe the effect her arrival had on my dad. She’s been his constant and loyal companion ever since. Blondie has been there to smooth the way as he’s moved to new hospitals, to Assisted Living, and, more recently, to his nursing home.

When my dad and I flew from the west coast to the east coast in an air ambulance, Blondie was squashed into the flying tube with us and the medical team — keeping watch at my dad’s feet. As a result she was with him from the first moment he was in his new nursing home.

Blondie has also been an amazing ice-breaker — everyone wants to ‘meet’ her, and to talk about her. Her proud ‘Daddy’ basks in the glow of all this attention; he’s never been “that new patient in room whatever.” Everybody knows who Blondie and her Daddy are.

We sometimes talk about Blondie when I visit him, and he frequently lovingly shakes a paw. She’s clearly a companion — my dad always has a friend in his room, even when no people are around.Sherman

I don’t see Blondie on the Douglas Toy site, but Sherman (pictured right) could be her younger brother, and he’s clearly all Golden — ready to love anyone on a moment’s notice.

Blondie and Sherman are big dogs — Sherman is 32 inches long, and I suspect Blondie is even a little larger — so they aren’t necessarily the right choice for every dog-lover. Most of the Douglas Toys are exceptional for an uncanny likeness to real life, though, and they do cover all the bases from little 6 inch puppies on up to the likes of Blondie and Sherman.

Sherman will set you back a hefty hundred dollars at his regular retail price, although I see that at least one Internet store has him for around seventy-five dollars. Never fear, though, Douglas has puppies for far, far, less, too — all of them as heart-meltingly sweet as Blondie and Sherman.

Douglas Toys

See also: Love, Imagination and Human Interaction

Everyday Gear Shows and Expos Travel Wheelchairs

Remote Control Wheelchair Docking

You Can Take It With You

Coolest not-yet-existing product at the WCD Expo? The ATRS system — essentially a conversion van which uses remote control to return your wheel chair to its docking point inside your van. ‘ATRS’ stands for ‘Automated Tranport and Retrieval System.’

The system is expected to include Freedom Lift’s Freedom Seat, the Tracker with Dock ‘n’ Lock with the ATRS. The Freedom Seat lifts, rotates, and lowers outside a vehicle next to a wheelchair for a side-to-side transfer, and re-entry into the vehicle. The Tracker is a wheelchair lift with a locking/docking component (Dock ‘n’ Lock).

atrs system mapThese two items (three, if you count the Dock ‘n’Lock as separate) are available now, but the cool part is the ATRS — the software and hardware that Freedom Sciences has developed to use the Freedom Seat and the Tracker as parts of a remote control system. This system will allow you to roll up in your chair, transfer to the Freedom Seat and remotely send your wheelchair from the front vehicle door to the Tracker, load it onto the Tracker, dock it, slide it into the vehicle and stow it — all while you’re sitting in your van (mini or otherwise).

That’s cool enough, but the kicker is that the Freedom Seat and Tracker don’t require any drilling for installation — they install in the existing manufacturer slots for the OEM seats. Yes, you can take it with you . . . this conversion can follow you from van to van, reducing the cost of conversion considerably over time.

At the moment, cost of the system and van is estimated at more or less the cost of a full conversion van, so (and assuming this is still true when it becomes available) the initial cost won’t be any saving, but should add up as vans get replaced.

It won’t be for everyone, but for those who can use it, this system, with its fabulous robotic component, could offer unparalled freedom for many, along with the opportunity to ride and drive in a fully-tested safer automotive seat. Launch is set for spring 2007.

I have high hopes for this baby. In defiance of all previous known manufacturer/developer practices, the engineers are actually using the system themselves — in a (gasp!) wheelchair, just as if they expected it to work the way they’re designing it. Way-to-go guys!

Everyday Gear Home Modifications

Adventures With Portable Wheelchair Ramps, Part 3

In Part 1 of this series of articles, I discussed the ramps needed so that my dad could have access to the house. In Part 2, I looked at the basic technical requirements for the necessary ramps.

At Home DIY Everyday Gear Good Stuff Home Modifications Nursing Home

No-Slip Grips for Phones, Remote Controls

egrips appliques are hard to beat for making objects easier to grasp. Adding these rubberized adhesive strips to phones, remote controls and even nail clippers makes them less slippery without creating any additional bulk.

The IT crowd — at least those who aren’t cavalier about their equipment — use the same strips on PDAs and phones to avoid those potentially disasterous fumbles.

egrips Available in all sorts of shapes and colors to customize just about everything. University of Texas fans can plaster their very own UT steer anywhere they like. Get them online, or at larger computer stores.

See also: Lever Door Handles

Everyday Gear Gifts Good Stuff Home Modifications

Super Large Analog Date/Time Clock

Big Clock Some days it’s a good to have basic data first thing in the morning and on demand all day long. This expensive clock from The Alzheimer’s Store has large clear numerals and text showing the month, day, date and time in high contrast.

Unlike an LED clock face, it’s readable from any direction; my dad can see his even at night from the ambient light in his room. At 12 inches by 15 inches, it’s large enough to see from across the room, too.

The clock works are mechanical, and the cost apparently has to do with the durabiliy of the flipping mechanism (each numeral/word is on a separate tab which is turned by a little motor). Setting the features is simple; the clock runs on one AA battery, theoretically for two years.

It’s worth every penny; my dad refers to it regularly and has often mentioned how helpful it is.

Everyday Gear Home Modifications Wheelchairs

Adventures With Portable Wheelchair Ramps, Part 2

In Part 1 of this series on Portable Ramps, I discussed the basic set-up around our house. This article will cover how I determined what sort of ramp setup we needed — Steps 1 through 4 on this mission.

Everyday Gear Good Stuff Kids Travel Wheelchairs

Wheelchair Cupholder — Drink Up!

Valco Baby has the sturdiest and most practical cupholder I’ve found for any kind of self-propelled vehicle (think stroller, walker, wheelchair).

Valco Baby Cupholder

Attaching it isn’t the most intuitive process around, but once on board, it rotates to any angle, and is absolutely secure. It’s worked great on my dad’s wheelchair, and I’ve used it happily on several strollers as well.