Aiding and maintaining one’s independence

Gerald W. Deas M.D., MPH | 10/4/2018, 2:22 p.m. | Updated on 10/4/2018, 2:22 p.m.

Without a doubt, apes are intelligent beings. From what I have observed at the circus and the zoo, they can be taught anything and everything. One important ability, however, that separates them from human beings is that they can’t use the index finger and thumb as a working unit. In other words, they can’t pinch you.

If you want to experience how difficult it is to get through a day without the use of the thumb and index finger working together, just immobilize your thumb with a wooden splint. You can’t do anything! It is impossible to write, to open a door, to hold an eating utensil, button up a shirt, put shoes on and tie them or even to peel an apple.

With an unusable thumb and index finger, one would be totally dependent upon another person for assistance in daily living.

There are many persons who have become incapacitated because of the loss of the use of a hand. This affliction might have resulted from an accident, crippling arthritis or even a devastating stroke. Physical rehabilitation is capable of doing wonders in restoring a disabled hand; however, even this therapy might fail because of physical limitation.

If the thumb and index finger cannot be made to perform as a workable unit because of physical restraints, objects that have to be used for independent living can be made larger to accommodate the defect. For example, there are writing pens that have been made larger in size that can be used efficiently to write letters.

Many kitchen utensils, such as knives and forks, can be made with larger handles. This modification can easily be done by placing the handle of the utensil between two pieces of wood and wrapping tape around it. There are scissors that have been developed that have wide handles and close very easily. To accommodate a restricted hand, doorknobs can be made larger simply by wrapping tape around them. There are gadgets available that can be placed on a phone to make it easier to lift the receiver.

Everyone wants to be self-sufficient and live an independent life; however, disease might alter the picture. There are other gadgets on the market to make life a little easier for a person with a handicapped hand.

To obtain a catalog of these items for your mom, dad or even yourself, call Independent Living Aids at 800-537-2118 or visit their website at

If you know a person who has a handicap, lend a hand if you can!