Sunday, October 3, 2010

Tips and Tricks

Available in the Sammons Preston Catalogue

I have tried to collect tips and tricks over the years both to help me cope with a one-handed life and to share with my peer support group who may express similar frustrations. It's my hope that together we can generate a comprehensive list on this blog. I will post a few tips that I have used and I hope that my readers will add a few of their own (or many!)so that other thriver's have a ready, easy access to help when they need it.


A great help in the kitchen. Usually a sheet of sticky plastic that provides a non-slip function.

I spent years trying to do this chore by bracing the bread with my body while trying to spread bread,often resulting in dirty shirts. Finally it occurred to me to place the bread on a piece of Dycem-it will stay put while you spread and the Dycem rinses off easily.

Filling and emptying pots is always dangerous when you have only one hand or your grip is weak. I use as small a pot as possible for cooking but most often leave this filling chore for others. When emptying a pot after cooking, always wait until it has cooled down before transferring. If you have the means, a pot filler can be installed over your stove to make filling easier. These are pricey though and you still have to carry the pot one way.

Dull scissors are a real pain and plastic bags are tricky enough as it is to do with one hand. Right-handed scissors will suffice for a lefty for a while but soon become dull and hard to use.I find that scissors need to be really sharp to cut a plastic bag with one hand. If you have a right hand deficit, left-handed scissors can be purchased at Caynes and other kitchen stores in Toronto.

This is often a problem even without having had a stroke. There are V-shaped jar openers that can be attached to the bottom of a cupboard. Put the jar lid first along the V until it's snug, and twist until the lid loosens. I find this works better with smaller jars, not so well with bigger ones.

Dycem can also be helpful to loosen tops, but what is really needed is a static force to turn against- a problem if your other hand is weak or completely disabled. Years ago someone told me a tip that I found most helpful. Put the jar in a small utility drawer if you are in the kitchen, so that the jar sticks up out of the drawer. Use the edge of the drawer for shorter bottles. Push the drawer until it shuts on the bottle and brace it there using your body weight. Use your good hand to remove the top. This also works well for holding food containers, yogurt say, while you spoon out the food.

There are other types of jar openers that can be purchased at kitchen stores. I have never used one of these so cannot make any recommendation, but the reviews seem good.

Black & Decker Automatic Jar Opener, Lids Off

Electric can openers are the best bet. With practice (start with a small can) you can press down on the lever while holding on to the can so you can catch it when the lid comes off. Heavy or larger cans are too difficult for me, so I buy smaller cans or ask for help. Some of the newer can openers have a hands free function. For reviews of electric can openers go to


Cutting Boards

There are a number of assistive devices to help chop and dice. Cutting boards are available with a trio of nails meant to hold the food while chopping, corner shaped wood slats to hold bread while cutting and a sort of built in knife and holder for slicing bread.

Hi-D™ Paring Board

Easily cleaned, durable, high-density polyethylene paring board. Aluminum nails hold food for peeling and slicing. Corner guards keep bread from sliding when spreading butter or cutting. Four rubber suction feet anchor board securely. Dishwasher safe. Latex free. This board is available through the Sammons Preston Catologue (link listed on main page)

Etac® Deluxe One-Handed Paring Board

Etac® Deluxe One-Handed Paring Board

Plastic cutting board has prongs to hold food for slicing and a vise to hold a variety of items for one-handed operation. Can be used to hold mixing bowls for stirring, opening boxes or jars, or for slicing or grating food. Four suction feet secure board to work surface. Weighs 6 lbs. Measures 12"L x 11"W. Latex free.

Kitchen Workstation.

Kitchen Workstation.

Durable chopping board (19¾" x 11¾" includes a removable grater and slicer with a protective cover, a raised L-shaped corner, removable stainless steel spikes and a removable clamp, which opens up to hold food, a tin or bowl. The clamp’s edge reverses from flat to contoured. Four nonslip suction pads keep the station secure even on wet counter tops! Dishwasher safe. Latex free
Available in the Sammons Preston Catalogue

A more economical way to create a similar board is to adapt your present cutting board by hammering in three galvanized nails (anti-rust) into one corner.I do find most wooden cutting boards heavy to move with one hand, especially for cleaning. I drag mine to the sink and give it a good scrub with the dish brush and hot soapy water after use.I sometimes rinse with boiling water from the kettle. Tilt to drain and air dry. Cutting boards are germ traps( as are dish towels and cloths) and it's important to minimize our exposure to all bacteria if we possibly can.


One of the frustrating things about handling rolled paper products is how difficult it is to “snap off” a single piece. More often than not you end up with a huge length of paper that you don’t want. The type of paper dispenser you use can make a big difference.

The newer paper towel dispensers require a simple touch of your hand to cut and dispense a length of towel of any size. They also attach underneath the cupboard allowing for more counter space. This option is very pricey, the dispenser is huge and apparently quite difficult to install; but once installed it is fun and easy to use.

The Clean Cut Touchless Paper Towel Dispenser

To see a video about how it works go to:

The Kimberly Clarke countertop sensor model looks a bit fiddly for one-handed use but is considerably less expensive.

Easi-Tear  Paper Towel Dispenser also wall- mounts and is cheaper again.

The Original Single Sheet Paper Towel Dispenser has a  special Easi-Tear "stop-control"  that dispenses only one paper towel at a time. 

 Kamenstein Paper Towel Dispenser

The dispenser I use is the Kamenstein brand. I’ve had mine for several years and it’s a delight to use. It has enough friction to allow you to snap off a single sheet but if you pull more gently you can pull more. If you buy paper towels with a large centre hole you don’t even have to bother with unscrewing toe knob at the top to slide it on. Now if only it were easier to open the package of paper towels…..

The web site “Cool Tools”  (see below in Miscellaneous Links(ML) for web address)has this to say about the Kamenstein paper towel dispenser:
“I do a lot of food preparation from my wheelchair, and found that most free-rolling towel dispensers just don't work for me since I can only grip with one hand. The genius of this "Perfect Tear" paper towel dispenser is that it allows enough freedom for the roll to unwind with a steady pull, but has enough friction to prevent further unwinding when you pull to detach a sheet. It has a center post with bowed wires that contract and hold the paper roll snugly in place. It is also very stable because the base weighs about 4 pounds. No more chasing unwinding rolls of paper across the kitchen floor. Better still, it works just as well at the end of the roll as it does at the start. When the last sheet has been pulled, unscrew the decorative top cap, slide off the used cardboard tube, push on another roll and replace the cap -- all of this can be easily performed one-handed. I've had mine a couple of years now. Well worth the precious space it's claimed on my very limited counter.”

“CoolTools”  also recommends a bottle scrapper that I think would be very useful to one-handers. How often do you waste precious goodies at the bottom of a jar because you can’t scrape it out with one hand. This product is shaped to conform to bottle sides allowing you to pull out the contents. I would prop the jar in a drawer to secure it before I inserted the scraper, to help provide leverage and stability.

CoolTools * (see below in ML) describes the Bottle Scraper in the following way:

“I first used this bottle scraper twenty years ago when boarding with a family in the Netherlands. At the time, Dutch pudding came in glass jars similar to traditional milk bottles and this spatula was the only way to get out the last drop. Since then, I have thought wistfully about the bottle scraper every time I have tried to get gooey foods (think sauces or peanut butter) out of a bottle or jar.
Unlike most spatulas, the long handle reaches the bottom of long bottles. The small silicone head bends to enter small openings, then pops open inside. The curved head makes a snug fit against a bottle's interior walls, making it easy to pull the contents out.
On a recent trip to The Netherlands, I made sure to purchase one for my home kitchen. Online, it can be purchased at Fante's Kitchen Wares Shop.
-- Debora Dekok  

Silicone Bottle Scraper
Available from and manufactured by Fantes

Another useful gadget recommended by CoolTools is a sugar/flour holder that makes it much easier to dispense these messy essentials:

“I bought this sugar dispenser from King Arthur Flour a couple of years ago, and it's been a sturdy, reliable tool. It's sized to accommodate a five-pound bag of sugar. You slide the bag inside, open it up, trim the bag top to the level of the top of the container, and put on the lid. There's a little flap on the inside of the lid that fits right inside the bag of sugar, holding it open and keeping the sugar from sifting down the sides. The lid has two openings, one is a small pour spout, and the other is large enough for scooping out sugar with a measuring cup. The spout is slightly flexible, so if a lump clogs it I can squeeze the sides of the spout to crush the lump. The whole thing is ant and waterproof when sealed shut.
This is not a sexy matte-black high tech kind of tool, just a solid, well thought-out container that makes working with, and storing, sugar or flour much simpler, easier and cleaner. Using it makes me very happy.
Also, King Arthur Flour's online store and print catalog are packed with tons of nifty cooking tools. The King Arthur Flour's Cookie Companion and Baker's Companion books are fabulous cookbooks.
-- Amy Thomson  

Sugar/Flour Dispenser
Manufactured by Buddeez
Available from Amazon


The Contigo Mug Is terrific for a clumsy one-handed person like me. You can literally tip a full mug upside down and it won't leak. Just press the button at the back of the mug to drink.

Contigo Mug

*I have now tried out the Contigo Mug and it's truly leak proof. It is though, very difficult to open and close for filling because there is a considerable "sealing" suction.I tried using the "utility drawer" method (see *opening jars above) to brace it and it kept slipping under force because of the smooth surface; so I wrapped a piece of Dycem around the mug before placing in the drawer, and it provided enough grip for me to open it easily.The joy of carrying it around all day without worrying about spills was worth the effort, although occasionally I put the mug up to my mouth to drink and wondered why nothing came out. I kept forgetting to push the button!


DRESSING AND CLOTHING                                                                             

Coiled Scarfs 
Last night I went out to dinner and one of my good friends was wearing a winter scarf that I thought would be most useful. It had wire woven into the soft flannel (something like wired ribbon) that caused the scarf to coil around itself while wearing. Although it sounds a bit scary, it might be very handy for those (like me) whose scarves are constantly falling off because one shoulder is lower that the other .The less we have to fuss with, the better.

The scarf was bought at the Bloor street  BAY store , made in Germany  , and the make is Cashmink  CA06761 . I believe the original price was $35 . It is basically a long piece of material with 2 elasticised threads spread 3 inches apart ,  running down the middle . Easy to make for any one with basic sewing skills .


In the challenging days following my stroke when I had to relearn many familiar tasks, I remember the agonizing effort it required to dress myself-by the time I finished, I was ready for bed again-it was truly exhausting. I would struggle, and sweat, and curse, and cry; but with time I learned to be adept at doing routine tasks with one hand. This frustration has not entirely gone away, I still get annoyed when it takes ages to put on my coat or boots, but dressing myself is not something that I  agonize over anymore. I’ve developed “ways” of doing things that make my life much easier. The following are some tricks that I have learned over the years:

Who would ever imagine that putting on a sock would be such hell? It was for me until I was taught the 3-fingered method. Put your thumb and the next 2 fingers into the top of the sock and open your fingers widely to form as wide a triangle as you can. Slip the end over your toes until the sock is well enough on your foot that it won’t fall off. Pull your fingers out and work on the rest of your sock.

 I buy loose fitting socks without tight elastic around the ankle. They are easier to put on and won’t impair circulation. This is extremely important for those of you who are diabetic. Diabetic socks, which are available at many pharmacies, department stores, and hospital shops, are a perfect choice.

I also have given up knee- length socks except for knee-length nylons when I dress up, and I rarely use those because they are terribly constricting. In fact I hardly ever wear a dress anymore except in the summer, so I can avoid nylons altogether. To me they are just not worth the bother.

Other socks worth mentioning are the newer anti-blister socks available at sporting goods stores like Mountain Equipment Co-op. These socks help avoid friction and rubbing which can break down skin.

The Wise Geek website (link available in Miscellaneous Links below) describes how anti-blister socks work:
“Anti-blister socks are socks made specifically for the purpose of deterring the formation of foot blisters. The anti-blister sock is most often either made from a two-ply weave or is a compression sock. It is usually worn by athletes, though many people choose this type of sock simply for the extra level of comfort it affords.
By creating an anti-blister sock with a two-ply weave, two layers create a barrier for wetness. The foot getting damp and rubbing against the sock is one of the ways that blisters are formed. The first layer absorbs dampness, keeping it from reaching the foot, while the second layer, the one closest to the foot, keeps the foot dry and comfortable.
The two-ply weave also helps prevent the bunching so commonly associated with the traditional one-ply sock. The reason that the two-ply weave is less likely to bunch is because it is a heavier weave and so less apt to move once the wearer places it on the foot. Bunching, where the sock is uneven and rubs the foot, is another cause of blistering on the foot.”


Falling is often a risk for stroke thrivers and is just one of the reasons to be cautious when choosing footwear. Because balance is an issue after stroke it is important to wear a stabilizing shoe that fits well and gives excellent support. Sorry ladies it may be wise to give up those stiletto heals!

Diabetics need shoes that are extra protective to the foot to prevent injuries and roomy to prevent rubbing. Diabetics have poor circulation to their extremities making their feet and hands more susceptible to the cold and impeding the healing process.

Dec 5/2011

Never tie your shoe again!

Dec 6/2011

Tripping and falling is always a concern for us strokies. Here’s an interesting site for safe and styling shoe tying!

Dec.7 /20011

And more on the subject of shoes-extra long shoe horns are available at Ikea to make it easier for squeezing into your shoes.

Knitting and other fibre arts

One of the delightful ladies in my peer support group, Mildred Leigh, was expressing frustration this week because she is unable to use her weakened right hand to knit. A small thing like this can be vital to well being of someone who is recovering from stroke; it allows you to recover a part of your old way of life, even if in a modified form. It allows you to stick your thumb out at stroke and say “you are not going to defeat me!” Well I think I found something for you Mildred. It’s called The New Stitch Simply Knitting Aid and can be purchased at the following web site It’s a U.K. product but they ship abroad. If anyone else has advice for Mildred, we would love you to share.


October 30, 2010
Mildred gave me hell this week because the above knitting aid cost 85 pounds! So I'm on the hunt for alternative cheaper alternatives. I found one on U Tube from a disability tips site.
at Dynamic-Living offers a vice that can hold one needle.

There is great page of consumer suggestions on Ravelry, a knitting site,  for more fiber arts that can be done one-handed .               

Here are some of these examples:

"Embroidery with a stand hoop?"

"People knit one handed too… I think they keep the second needle between their legs, or wedged in their belt - that could be an option."

"She could learn to knit left handed or backwards. You don’t really move your left hand all that much when knitting right handed, so if she knits or crochets with her left hand her right hand would basically just hold the needle like your left hand does."

"There is a crochet hook that has a very big curved handle made specially for people with poor grip strength, such as after a stroke or neurological injury or because of arthritis. I think that Patternworks sold it at one time. Another idea is to build up the handle of a regular crochet hook (knitting needle) with something like the foam tubing used to insulate pipes. The person then uses one hand to hold the hook and can used the weakened hand to hold the work steady against their body.
 Another tip: Have your Mom consult with an occupational therapist. Their job is to help someone with a disability figure a way to work around the problem."

There is a terrific "thread" (conversations back and forth) on Ravelry on knitting one-handed by folks who have lived their entire lives with one hand.

Many of these websites,like Ravelry and Crochetville require that you resister by providing a password and a login name. When you register, your computer should ask you if it should remember them so you can get in easily next time. Most of these websites are free.


1.Build up the needle on your affected side with a thick foam.

2. Prop needle in your arm pit or on the edge of your arm chair.

3. By or make a vice-like device to hold the needle.

4.Use a knitting loom.

5. Learn to knit backwards Continental Method?

5. Ask your occupational therapist for help.

Knitting Woman by William Adolphe Bouguereau

Retractable Marker Pens
Sharpie has come up with a new marker pen that makes it so much easier for the one-handed-retractable markers! Here's their blurb:

No cap to remove or lose.
Retractable marker for easy one-handed operation.
Safety Seal& tm and Valve design helps prevent drying out.
Ultra-fine point for precise marking and writing.
Permanent on most surfaces.
Quick-drying ink.
AP certified non-toxic formula.
3 colours: blue,red and black.

CLOSING CAR DOORSClosing a car door can be awkward and dangerous when you have a weakened or non-functioning arm.An occupational therapist once suggested an easy solution to me. Attach a length of Velcro strapping to the inside of the car door and pull it shut with your good hand. You can tie a length of rope if you can't get Velcro, but the Velcro allows for easy removal if you want to use it in another cars and I find knots pretty hard to undo with one hand.Velcro strapping can be purchased at most fabric stores.

Oct 6/2011

Nov 1/2012

Tips and Tricks

Update on Blo and Go

I recently purchased a Blow and Go hair dryer holder because it seemed to be a great idea for anyone with a weakened or non-functional arm. It is heavy and very difficult to secure on a mirror with one hand (it doesn't adhere to walls at all) and the suction doesn't hold, making the entire contraption a flying missile. I still think the concept is a good one but suggest waiting until the company comes up with a permanent holder that fastens to the wall.

Sammons Preston (now Patterson Medical) carries The Hands-Free Hair Dryer Pro 2000 which can sit on a table or shelf.

Nov 2/2011

Love Making Cookies But Can’t Get The Sticky Dough Off the Spoon?

Cookie Dropper From Lee Valley Tools

Great for one-handers!

Nov 4/2011
Measuring Pours
Because I have to use my left hand (not my dominant hand) I have problems when dispensing fluids , usually by overpouring. Lee Valley Tools sells   “ Measuring Pours” that allow more accurate dispensing with one hand.,104,53214&ap=6

Nov 9/2011

Knife Guards,104,53214&ap=4

Nov 23/2011

Apex Ultra Pill Splitter


*The author does not endorse any one product.

Nov 24/2011

Flossing You Can Do With One Hand

*The author does not endorse any one product.

Nov 25/2011

 Toto Washless Toilet

 *The author does not endorse any one product.

Dec 16/2011

An interesting way to keep your gloves handy.

Dec 19

I am forever carrying around pieces of cloth to clean my glasses with-here’s an ingenious idea.

Dec 20/2011

As we get older many of us develop sensitive skin and it is especially important for diabetics to avoid skin irritations. Allergy-free apparel may be the answer for you?

Allergy Free Drawstring Bra

Allergy-Free Men’s Shorts

 Unisex Latex- Free Socks

The Staybowlizer

May 8/2012

Mixing Peanut Butter


A ‘Cool Idea’ for Working in Summer’s Heat.

May 30/2012

Tips and Tricks

You know how difficult opening those plastic berry containers can be, even with two hands? You fiddle wth them until you finally get them open, then pow!, blueberry explosion all over your kitchen floor? It has happened to me more times than I care to remember, so I came up with a solution. Place the container in your kitchen sink and squeeze the sides gently untill the container pops open. Then if you over-squeeze there's less bother retreiving the berries.

Oct 8/2012

For easier one-handed scooping of ice cream, mashed potatoes or other "gluey" things that tend to stick to the spoon, try using an ice cream like the one pictured above. The semi-rotation of the lever moves it under the food and loosens it so it can fall out easily . You can buy one at kitchen stores or check out your local flea market for an older one which often work just as well and cost a lot less.

Oct 15/2012

More Tips And Tricks

New Nail Clippers at Lee Valley,54&ap=1

Lee Valley Single-Handed Server

Oct 24/2012

More New Tips and Tricks

Update on Nail Clippers

I bought all three varities from Lee Valley and last night I clipped my own nails for the first time in almost 8 years! The levers on the blue ones are designed for people with limited dexterity and I found them relatively east to press with my affected hand even in a curled state. Cutting the nails on my affected hand was more tricky, but I found if I manipulated my fingers on a table edge I could keep them still long enough to cut them. What a relief it was to do it myself, and one less thing for my husband to do for me. I found the rotating head clippers a little more fiddly. I'll have to try them a few more times to see f they are usable for me.

I also bought the single handed server which is amazing! It's just perfect for picking up pasta and salad...easy-peasy. A keeper for sure, and it comes in lots of colours and is easy to clean.

                               New Tips and Tricks

                  Gardening made easier and accesible

                             VegTrug From Vesey's

                                        Also From Vesey's

                          Self-Watering Stand Up Garden

Jan 14/2013         Soak and Strain Washing Bowl by Art and Cook
Finally an easy way to wash fruits and vegetables with one hand!
Feb 15/2013

More Tips and Tricks

Stressless Pizza -Cutter by Trudeau

(Zulilly is an on-line discount house)

*NB The author does not endorse any one product

One-Handed Pepper Mill

Fat Strainer By Trudeau

Dual Egg Poacher

April 14/2013

More Tips and Tricks

Lee Valley's "Slice" Desk Utility Cutter"


Much safer than a boxcutter which I use to cut everything.

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