2 posts tagged “helpful products”

“Smart” gear for cold hands due to Raynaud’s?

Posted 4 months ago by

Member Julia (mjguimaraes), a product designer in Montreal who’s living with Raynaud’s disease and multiple autoimmune conditions, is creating hand-warmers and other smart gear intended to help patients. She even involved fellow PatientsLikeMe members in shaping her first product. What’s in the works? Check it out!

TotumTech hand-warmer

Helping (cold) hands

Julia is originally from Brazil and began to notice symptoms of Raynaud’s while she lived there (especially in air-conditioned spaces), but her symptoms got much worse when she moved to chilly Canada. Doctors officially diagnosed Julia with Raynaud’s disease three years ago. She’s also living with rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and other conditions.

Raynaud’s is a vascular (blood vessel) disorder that causes ischemic attacks (lack of blood flow), usually in the hands and fingers, feet and toes, ears and nose. This makes them feel cold, numb and/or painful and turns them white or pale.

“Winter is when it becomes really hard to cope with,” Julia says, but she noted that it’s an issue year-round because of air conditioning.

“When you have an attack, it isn’t only your fingers, your entire body feels cold,” she says. “Even with a lot of layers, it’s not enough. When you’re at home, you can find a lot of blankets. When you’re working, it’s hard to find ways of coping. I see that my production slows.”

Julia’s product development work is a side job for now. Her day job is a UX (user experience) designer, so she frequently needs to use her hands. But having cold hands means it’s harder to type because her fingers don’t respond as expected. So she spends a lot of time finding ways to get warm, from standing up and moving around to getting hot coffee.

“It looks like half of my day is about looking for ways to warm myself,” she says.

She needed something smarter — beyond blankets and beverages — to warm her extremities.

smart hand-warmer prototype

From project to product

Julia was a student at Concordia University when — with Raynaud’s in mind — she came up with the idea of a “smart” hand-warmer for a project for her class called Wearables. Her program, Computation Arts, “explores the intersection of design, art and technology.”

“I had so much good feedback [in class],” she says of her hand-warmer project. “Then one day I thought, ‘Wow — why couldn’t I find a way of having these available for people?”

Sensors and smart technology are all around us, so Julia wondered, “Why not make something that helps us [our bodies] as well?”

Julia has teamed up with two partners to launch a small company called TotumTech, with the “Hands-On-Warm” hand-warmer as the first product they’re spearheading (with hopes to expand to other products and health conditions later on).

Her two partners live with and are caregivers to people with invisible illnesses, so they have their own experiences with understanding day-to-day life with health conditions.

“It’s hard because people look at you and don’t think you have a disease: ‘You look well. You look great. Why are you telling me that you’re sick?'” Julia says (echoing other PatientsLikeMe member’s experiences). “It’s hard for people who have these kinds of problems.”

“That’s why our focus is on these people,” she says. “Our value proposition is that we are looking to [help] people with invisible disabilities — to help them cope with their limitations, regain their productivity, have relief, and improve their quality of life.”

PatientsLikeMe member feedback

Julia’s first prototype of the hand-warmer was a proof-of-concept of her invention — a wireless, fingerless glove with built-in hand-warmers — and it worked well for her personally, she says.

Seeking to research other patients’ perspectives (and not promote an existing product — an important distinction per our user agreement), Julia sought permission from PatientsLikeMe to ask members in the forum for feedback on their Raynaud’s disease and her product idea.

“It was great that people were super-interested,” she says, noting that members were very open and some want to get involved in user testing.

By end of winter, Julia is aiming to finish the second (“smart”) prototype of the hand-warmer — which users should be able to control using their smartphone and set up their own comfort levels for different environments. In the spring, TotumTech is hoping to start user testing with the product. Then by summer, the business might launch a Kickstarter campaign.

Julia wearing TotumTech hand-warmer

“Comfortable and confident again”

Talking with fellow patients further fueled Julia’s interest in making in product a reality. Medications are just part of the picture in treating many conditions, so people are seeking different solutions to problems in their daily lives.

“We constrain ourselves from doing things because we are concerned about being cold,” Julia says of people with Raynaud’s. “My hope and my goal would be that this product will help people to regain this confidence and say, ‘OK, I can go to this place — I can go to a cinema and not freeze…and go to the frozen foods section and make my choice of food, without wearing full gloves.”

The current model of the “Hands-On-Warm” device fits under knit fingerless gloves or cuffs. TotumTech is working on designing different models to make them even more discreet.

“So my goal is that we can feel comfortable and confident again that our limitation is under our control, and not the other way around,” she says.

What kinds of inventions or devices could help you live better day-to-day with your condition and symptoms? Join PatientsLikeMe or log in to talk with members about this topic! Connect with Julia on PatientsLikeMe or through her company website.


Gift guide: Gadgets for people with health conditions

Posted 7 months ago by

Who needs another scarf or coffee mug? With the holiday shopping season upon us, PatientsLikeMe members are crowd-sourcing a list of handy products and tools that can actually help people living with pain, fatigue and other symptoms of chronic illness or aspects of aging.

Check out the list below, for starters, and then join PatientsLikeMe or log in to chime in with your own ideas here in our general forum (share your favorite gift ideas with your loved ones who truly want to know what’s on your wish list and what could be helpful for you!).

What’s behind this gadget guide/wish list?

We were inspired to start this “wish list” because many PatientsLikeMe members have shared in the condition forums which gadgets and products have helped them function a bit better day to day. For example, here’s a peek at items people with Parkinson’s disease and ALS have hailed as helpful in their community forums (join PatientsLikeMe or log in for access to all links):

  • “rocker knife,” also known as an “ulu” or a “mezzaluna” knife “works great for chopping/slicing veggies, fruits, cheeses, etc.” and a “large-blade pizza cutter is great for cutting pancakes/waffles very quickly,” one member says
  • With a food chopper, like those sold by The Pampered Chef, “I can chop onions, peppers, garlic in no time,” another member says in this thread about kitchen knives for people with tremors
  • Silk pajamas and/or satin sheets may make it easier to get in and out of bed
  • Members have made other wardrobe adjustments, like: “Larger, easy wear clothes, a long-handle shoe horn and pre-tied or slip-on shoes, covered hairbands looped through waistband button holes, an old shoe button hook & large paper clips in zipper grips for those days the fingers refuse to work” (Hint: Here’s how the hair elastic/button-hole trick looks… pregnant women also use this hack)
  • “I use elastic shoelaces so I don’t have to tie/untie my shoes,” another member says
  • “I can no longer button my shirts. This has led to me showing up in t-shirts for events that clearly require more. Then my doc suggested MagnaReady shirts – they have magnets that are hidden behind fake buttons and buttonholes. Genius!
  • For writing: PenAgain – alternative style pen, eliminates the need for a firm thumb-forefinger grip to write (available online and in office supply stores).
  • Devices that “cinch” your shoelaces (regular or elastic) closed so you don’t have to tie your shoes each time. An example is “lock laces.”
  • Also check out the products mentioned in our cleaning/laundry tips article (and the comments section), such as dust mop slippers and a garden kneeling pad (to make cleaning floors a little more comfy/easy) and a folding/camp stool to keep in the laundry area and/or kitchen when you need a quick rest. Consider asking for gift cards for a cleaning service or a new gadget (think: lightweight or robo-vacuum) that’ll make cleaning easier.

Drug store gift cards may not be the most exciting holiday present, but they’re very practical for most patients and can usually be used toward prescription medication co-pays (check with your local store to make sure).

What kinds of items would you add to this list? Join PatientsLikeMe or log in to see and add to the “gift guide” thread (and remember, don’t be shy about telling your friends and family what would be helpful to you this year!).