Fun

Did you see the T-shirt with the blue, universal wheelchair symbol on the front? The words around it—“I’m in it for the parking.” At AMS Vans, we tip our hat to whoever came up with that one! For obvious reasons, the Fun section is one of the most popular in our AMS Vans blog. Clearly, people with disabilities have a sense of humor, and we encourage it. Humor helps lift your spirits, and it helps put other people at ease. Expect a less-than-successful sports experience, a clever cartoon, a laughable personal situation or just a laugh-out-loud story when you’re looking here for FUN!

Giving Thanks Series: Caregivers Need Care, Too

caregiver helping her client

Many people with disabilities rely on the help of dedicated caregivers to lead an active and healthy life. Being a caregiver is rewarding, but the hours can be long and draining. That’s why, as part of our Giving Thanks series, we wanted to dedicate this post to caregivers. Also, we wanted to provide them with some helpful resources. With all that caregivers do for their clients, we wanted to take the opportunity to thank them and encourage them to take care of themselves, too!

There are some basic self-care strategies that caregivers can use to prevent burnout and stress. Further, there are also organizations dedicated to supporting caregivers.

Self-Care for Caregivers

For caregivers, it can sometimes feel like there’s no time for their own self-care, or that they shouldn’t take time away from their client or loved one to attend to their own needs. Instead, taking some time for self-care can help caregivers do a better job of caring for others. Ignoring your own needs can lead to burnout and chronic stress.

Having trouble thinking of ways you can take care of yourself as a caregiver? Here are some tips to get started:

  • Get enough rest. You need good quality sleep to keep up with your daily responsibilities.
  • Stay hydrated and nourished with quality food. Carry a big water bottle to make sure you’re hydrating during the day, and pack a healthy lunch when you can. Try not to skip breakfast.
  • Try meditation and coping mechanisms for stress. You could try a morning meditation practice before your day begins. Alternatively, you could learn some short mantras that you can repeat in stressful moments. For example, “Let it go” or “This will pass” could work.
  • Find a hobby and do something you enjoy on a regular basis. Making time for your own interests can help you avoid caregiver burnout.
  • Ask for help. You can’t do it all alone, whether you need someone to fill in for you so you can get a break, or you just need a supportive friend to listen–it’s not easy to ask for help, but it’s worth it.

Resources for Caregivers

When you need more than basic self-care, there are organizations that are there to help. These groups can provide valuable advice and support, facilitate connections with other caregivers, and help caregivers stay up-to-date on new policies and resources. Thus, here are some of the organizations that caregivers can reach out to for assistance:

National Center on Caregiving: This group can help you with policy issues, caregiver education, and information about the latest research.

Caregiver Action Network: CAN fosters community among caregivers and provides resources tailored to caring for specific types of patients.

National Family Caregiver Support Program: This federal program provides caregivers with access to services, training, and respite care.

Support for ALS Caregivers: The ALS Association provides connections to respite care, an online calendar to help families coordinate care, and educational information specific to ALS caregivers.

National Organization for Rare Disorders Caregiver Resource Center: Caring for someone with a rare disease can feel isolating. Thus, NORD provides resources including educational videos and webinars, connections to resources for specific conditions, and financial support.

Well Spouse Association: This organization supports spousal caregivers by facilitating in-person and online support groups, providing connections to respite care, and hosting conferences and special events.

Taking Care of Yourself

It’s natural for caregivers to feel hesitant or guilty about asking for help. However, we want you to know that taking care of yourself makes you a more effective caregiver. We hope that you find the resources you need to support your own health, happiness, and motivation. Thank you for all that you do! Contact us to learn more.

Giving Thanks Series: The Many Benefits of Practicing an Attitude of Gratitude

giving thanks at thanksgiving and sharing gratitude

Thanksgiving is the time of year when we gather together with our friends and family for a feast. There’s a popular tradition where everyone seated at the table takes turns expressing their gratitude about someone or something in our lives.  Whether it’s something as simple as having plenty of good food to eat, a roof over our heads or assistance that allows us to maintain our independence with a disability, there are actually many benefits to living with an attitude of gratitude throughout our daily lives.

According to experts, recognizing our thankfulness and expressing this gratitude offers many health benefits to those who vocalize their thanks. “It literally breathes new life into us,” stated Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California Davis and the founder of a research lab that studies the effects of grateful living. “It recharges and it rejuvenates,” continued Dr. Emmons.

Benefits of Appreciation in Relationships

Openly showing our gratitude was linked to lowering blood pressure, improving immune functions and decreases stress. Dr. Emmon further suggests our gratitude should go deeper into our family’s roots when he shared, “I think that a reflection of how our lives have been made so much more comfortable by the sacrifices of those who have come before us down through the generations should be the focus of how Thanksgiving should be observed.”

In our current relationships, Sara Algoe, associate professor of social psychology at the University of North Carolina adds, “When couples express gratitude for frequently and descriptively to each other, they are happier in their relationship.” Professor Algoe also delves deeper when she suggests, “It’s putting the ‘you’ in ‘thank you’ that really matters, it’s the little pat where you’re really calling out the person for the thing they did.”

Post Holidays and More

During November, we also show our gratefulness to our servicemen and women on Veteran’s Day. However, we shouldn’t be expressing our thanks during just this short period of time. Dr. Emmons’ study found those who took time weekly to reflect on what they’re thankful for had less physical illnesses and spent more time focusing on their health.

Being grateful doesn’t necessarily mean sharing our thanks verbally, it may also take on a written form that we can reflect on later in life. Author, philanthropist and television personality Oprah Winfrey recommends keeping a gratitude journal and writing in it daily. At one time in her life, the celebrity wondered why she “No longer felt the joy of simple moments.”

Writing and Delighting

At a time in her life when she had accumulated more of almost everything, wealth, possessions, opportunities, it seemed everything had grown exponentially except for her happiness. After returning viewing and writing in her thankful journal daily after a lengthy departure from this practice, she shared the positive aspects she had found. “I just made gratitude a daily priority,” Oprah shared, “I went through the day looking for things to be grateful for, and something always showed up.”

When following Winfrey’s line of thinking, whenever you recognize a grateful moment in your life be sure to jot it down whether it’s on paper or electronically. “You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you’re aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots.”

Daily Recognition

If writing things down either daily or weekly simply isn’t in your wheelhouse, there are still ways to be grateful, recognize and offer thanks on a regular basis. Perhaps you could make a general list of all the things you’re grateful for and reviewing it often. If you’re struggling to find things to be thankful for, consider:

  • Joining a social media group grounded in gratefulness
  • Buying a book of daily or weekly positive, thankful affirmations
  • Signing up on a video channel that delivers these messages daily

Getting Inspiration From RAK

The act of performing RAKs (Random Acts of Kindness) has been exploding with popularity on social media sites and other broadcasting channels. There’s even a non-profit with a website (randomactsofkindness.org), encouraging everyone to spread the cheer with unsolicited ways people show compassion in simple unexpected acts.

Performing random acts of gratuity or thankfulness (RAG or RAT) is wonderful. There are many suggestions on ways to keep RAK alive. Further, there’s one way that I have instituted RAG and RAT practices into my life. For example, when I’m at the grocery store, post office, or other outlet and I see someone who is:

  • A first responder in uniform including police officers, firefighters, ambulance drivers, etc.
  • A doctor, physician with a smock or person wearing scrubs
  • Dressed in a military uniform or wearing a full set of fatigues and boots
  • Wearing a cap or T-shirt with an insignia indicating they served in a specific branch of the military, etc.

I simply walk up to them and say, “Excuse me, I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you for everything you do and want you to know it’s greatly appreciated”. Most often I shake their hand. Then, they respond by saying something like, “I’m just doing my job”. However, it always makes me feel better knowing that I’ve acknowledged them for their service.

Conclusion

In conclusion, think about the many different ways you can live your life with an attitude of gratitude. You’ll be happier and healthier in the long run. Finally, from everyone at AMS Vans, here’s wishing you, your family, and friends a Thanksgiving filled with gratitude. Happy holiday season along with a prosperous New Year. Thank YOU for reading this post!

dog taking a treat from a person's hand

Giving Thanks Series: Mobility For Our Furry Friends

a dog walking with the help of his wheelchairOur pets can be a source of unconditional love and endless joy. It can be heartbreaking when something hinders them from being active and playful. However, just like assistive technology that give humans mobility freedom, there are also devices for pets!

November is all about giving thanks. We wanted to start off our four-part Giving Thanks series by showing some appreciation for our furry friends. Below is an overview of some cool and creative assistive devices that can help our pets live their best lives.

Pet Wheelchairs

In the past, it wasn’t easy to find furry friends with mobility issues the help they needed, but now pet wheelchairs are widely available from a variety of retailers. And it’s all thanks to a pioneering WWII vet turned veterinarian, Lincoln Parkes. In the 1960’s wheelchairs for animals just weren’t available. Parkes, driven by a passion for animals, set about creating a simple device. It was made out of planks of wood and toy wagon wheels. These prototypes for his first dog wheelchairs evolved into the more advanced wheelchairs that we see today. These wheelchairs are now lighter, more comfortable, and more mobile than ever, and available for not only dogs, but cats, goats, pigs and chickens.

cat with a wheelchair

Photo: handidappedpets.com

Pet wheelchairs come in two basic types, rear wheelchairs which have two wheels, and quad wheelchairs, which have four wheels for added support. Wheelchairs are designed to be adjustable for to fit a variety of sizes, but can also be custom made for individual pets. The list of available attachments is growing, with slings for belly and back support, slings for leg and foot support, and even ski attachments for pets that live where it snows.

You don’t have to look very far to find heartwarming stories about pets that have been given a second chance by caring humans that find or build them the wheelchairs they need. Check out these adorable and resilient animals that are making strides in their carts and wheelchairs.

Braces and Splints

white dog wearing a splint on back leg

Photo: handicappedpets.com

Sometimes our pets just need a little extra support for a portion of a limb or a joint. That’s where braces and splints come in. If a pet has a temporary injury or needs long-term support, braces are a great solution. Quality pet braces are made with strong plastics and non-porous foam lining so that bacteria will not be a problem. Pet braces are most often designed for the lower part of an animal’s legs. Though, there are designs that aid the elbow joints as well. Finding the proper brace can be a little complicated but veterinarians are a great resource to help and My Pet’s Brace has made this handy guide for a little more information about the different types of braces.

Prosthetics

Prosthetic limbs are available for dogs and other pets as well and require the most customization and care of the devices. A snug and comfortable fit allows for proper weight distribution so walking can be easy and painless. Prosthetics come in different sizes, shapes, and colors and can even be found in the cheetah leg design similar to those worn by famous athletes such as Aimee Mullins and Kim De Roy for pets that really like to stay on move.

Conclusion

Whether walking on paws, hooves, or wheels, pets can be an amazing source of love, devotion, and just plain fun. For the disability community, sometimes pets are more than just companionship – they actually aid in their owner’s independence. When something happens to our animals, helping them regain mobility freedom and a happy life is the least we can do to repay all they do for us.

Like what you’re reading? Check out our blog for more great articles! And you can view our large selection of wheelchair accessible vehicles here.

bright orange pumpkins in a pumpkin patch

10 Creative Halloween Costume Ideas for Wheelchair-Users

It’s hard to believe that Halloween is almost here and will kick off the holiday season. This first fall holiday is all about having fun – dressing up for trick-or-treating, costume parades, sweet snacks, scary movies and parties are common pastimes. If you’re incorporating a wheelchair into your costume, it’s an opportunity to bring some extra creativity. Many creative kids and inventive adults have truly taken this task to the next level.

If you’re still trying to decide on your costume or helping out a loved one, check out these cool costumes.

Master of the Seas

Building a ship around a wheelchair for Halloween gives way to all sorts of fun costume ideas. Dressing up as a generic pirate is a classic costume, but other options include more specific choices, such as Captain Jack Sparrow, Blackbeard, the famous female pirate Anne Bonny, Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid or, for kids, Moana is a great option.

Supplies:

  • Cardboard for ship
  • Tall stick and sheet-flag
  • Markers and paint
little girls in power chair dressed up as Moana

Photo: thislittlemiggy.com

I Am Batman

Over many decades, boys, girls and adults have adored the popular Batman franchise whose heroic characters may lack superpowers but have gadgets galore including the infamous Batmobile. Parents of eleven-year-old Gavin truly enjoyed going all out building Batman’s ride to transport their son around their neighborhood in style on Halloween. You can try to build something similar to them, or create a less-complex version with cardboard. One thing’s for sure – this would be a costume to remember!

Cruising in a Kayak

boy incorporating his wheelchair into a halloween costume of him riding in a kayakSpeaking of water, the creative minds over at the Fine Craft Guild have showcased a boy riding inside his rowing vessel with the namesake “Toddler Tour Kayaks.” This watercraft Halloween costume almost completely encompasses the tiny tot’s wheelchair and comes complete with oars as trim. Paint any name you want on the side!

Supplies:

  • Large pieces of cardboard
  • Paint
  • Clear packing tape
  • Straps or zip-ties to attach the “kayak” to the chair
  • Small oars for props

Princess Power

Little girls have been dreaming about being Disney princesses for decades. Thus, a four-year-old from Minneapolis made headlines with her Princess Sophia-inspired carriage complete with lights and trim. Kudos to the design team behind this transformed a motorized wheelchair. All you need is a princess outfit, then decide how elaborate you want to decorate the “thrown.” You could go all out by attaching cardboard or just tie some cool streamers and bows onto the chair to make it fancy.

 

Seated on The Game of Thrones

Adults can get in on the Halloween fun, too!  If you’re willing to put some time and energy into a bit more of an elaborate costume – and if you’re a fan of the show – this Game of Thrones-inspired throne could be a perfect choice. Although “winter is coming,” the person who shows up in his costume should get more than a warm welcome this Halloween.

guy in a power chair in a game of thrones halloween costume

 

Super Smart Mario Kart

Super Mario and all the related games are iconic across generations. Mario Kart is a fun and creative option for a Halloween costume incorporating a wheelchair. Standard supplies are below, but images and full instructions for re-creating Mario’s Kart can be found on the blog from Wheelchair Costumes. Just pick your favorite Super Mario character costume to top it all off!

Supplies:

  • Cardboard Vehicle Frame
  • Styrofoam Booster Jets
  • Tissue Paper Flames
  • Paint

Rocking and Rolling

boy in a wheelchair with a halloween costume that looks like he is playing the drumsAnother fun costume idea from Fine Craft Guild, is a rock star. While the drummer is commonly seated at the back of the band, with this costume, percussion takes center stage. With a little imagination, this musician is seated behind a sweet bass drum and smaller drums, and symbols, too. Throw on some rock star attire, and this costume is ready to roll!

Supplies:

  • A hula hoop
  • Cardboard
  • Solid-colored gift wrap (shiny for more effect)
  • 2 coffee cans
  • 2 disposable pie tins
  • A stick or pole for the symbols (pie tins)
  • Drum sticks for props

Race Car Driver (or other cool car)

For those who like to go fast, there are so many possible designs to turn a wheelchair into a super cool fast car. From an Indie 500 car to the Delorean, to your favorite sports car, there are lots of options. Similar to Mario Kart, all you need is cardboard and paint, plus a helmet for the full effect. You could even attach some battery-powered LED lights on the front for a cool effect!

Life on the Farm

Another creative costume for kids and adults involves transforming the wheelchair into a tractor! With similar supplies as we’ve mentioned above, and a little green or yellow paint, it’s easy to become a full-fledged farmer this Halloween. Grab a cowboy hat, a bandana and a piece of straw to chew on, and you’re all set! Yee-haw, ya’ll!

little boy in a wheelchair with a tractor costume

 

 

If you’re in the market for a new wheelchair accessible vehicle or need a rental to make this Halloween special, be sure to check out our huge inventory of new and used vans. From all of us here at AMS Vans, we hope that all who celebrate enjoy safe and happy Halloween festivities! If Halloween’s not your thing, then we wish you a Happy Fall!