Figure. GRIPPER: SHELLEY PETERMAN SCHWARZ; MICROCEPHALY: ALLISON STILLWELL
It's all in the details: the reaching, grabbing, and picking up. Having lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) since 1979, I've learned a lot about losses, both large—like walking, driving a car, or dressing myself—and small. And it's the small losses that sadden me the most: the difficulty picking up a piece of paper on the floor or getting out a roll of toilet paper from under the sink. Over the years, I've learned to use devices that give me back (some of) my independence, but my reachers top the list. Before I was diagnosed with MS, I had no idea there were so many reachers to help people with mobility limitations. Here are some tips to help you get a grip. (I have no financial relationship with any of these companies.)
1. Try the products before you buy them to make sure you can use them independently. Often, home health stores, hospitals/clinics with occupational therapy (OT) departments, and Independent Living Centers have reachers (and other devices) for you to try. You'll find an Independent Living Center in your area at ilusa.com/links/ilcenters.htm .
2. My favorite and the most versatile reachers are from TeleStik™ because they're lightweight (2.3 oz to 5.4 oz), fit easily into a fanny pack or purse, and pick up everything under a pound without any squeezing or gripping. The TeleMag™/TeleHook™ (magnet/hook combination) and the UltraStik™ extend your reach up to 34 inches. The adhesive disk on the UltraStik™ is good for 2,000 pickups, then may be washed and reused. (Available from Cougar Mountain Marketing Corporation, 877-299-2982; telestik.com . Cost: $16–$30.)
3. The Easy Grabber is made of a hard plastic, 18″–24″ long, lightweight, and easy to use. I found mine at a pet store in the tropical fish section. (You can find them at Amazon.com . Cost: $3–$4.)
4. The Locking EZ Reacher is used to pick up an object and lock it in place—handy when the object is larger and I need both hands to balance the weight. Once I have the object where I want it, I release the lever to free the reacher's gripping arms. These reachers come in various lengths and there's even a folding model I use when I travel. (Available from Dynamic Living Inc., 888-940-0605; Dynamic-Living.com . Cost: $20–$25.)
5. The Omnigrip™ Reachers adjust to any of four up/down and axial positions to achieve the best angle for use whether I'm sitting, standing, or lying down. A magnet on the jaw picks up needles and nails; a unique locking mechanism allows a continuous hold on an item without applying pressure on the trigger. The trigger requires a bare minimum of hand strength to operate and a removable wrist support adds balance and control when I need it. (Available from Maddak, Inc., 973-628-7600; maddak.com . Cost: $60–80.)
6. The Gopher™ Reacher has flexible rubber suction cups on the end to provide a gentle grip with more cushioning for delicate objects. It also offers a trigger-lock handle and folds for easy storage. (Available from Aids for Arthritis, 800-654-0707; aidsforarthritis.com . Cost: $10.)
7. The Alligetter™ is lighted, with a pointed tip for finding things in darkened spaces. It's compact size and folding handle makes it perfect to slip into a desk or backpack. (Available from Consafeco LLC; 215-337-4264; Alligetter.com . Cost: $20.)
For more tips, visit, MakingLifeEasier.com .
Shelley Peterman Schwarz