Getting a Grip

hand holding ballHi Chris,

My Dad, age 84, has had peripheral neuropathy for a few years now. He walks unsteadily, even with a cane, and has minimal feeling in his arms and legs.

He lives in a retirement home where a daily exercise programme is in place. Dad participates actively and willingly in this regimen, and can do most of the exercises the other folks do.

The one thing he is really terrible at is working with a tennis ball. They don’t throw it or anything, just pass it from one hand to the other, but Dads drops his often and of course getting up to chase it is impossible. Can you suggest anything that he might be able to use instead of a tennis ball to help achieve the same goal with less frustration?

Joan, Toronto

Dear Joan,

Ah, the old tennis ball trick! I find those darn things hard to hold onto and I’m 40 years younger than your dad and don’t have peripheral neuropathy. They’re fuzzy and they’re slippery! Do your Dad a favour, go to a dollar store and pick up a kid’s rubber ball. They have a variety of different sizes and textures. You might want to pick up a few different types and let him experiment. You’ll want to get him something that he can grip, which won’t slip, and that he can apply some pressure to. Squeezing the ball will help with his peripheral neuropathy as he concentrates on the sensations of applying pressure to the ball. Tennis balls are too stiff and light for this.

Next time you’re with your Dad, how about doing some extra therapy with him? Get him to hold a scarf or resistance band in his hand and scrunch it up until he gets all of it into his palm like a ball, release then repeat. Work up to 5 repetitions.

To your health


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