An Engineer’s Guide to Living with ALS

Apr 1, 2021

Lauren R. Tschirhart, Development & Social Media Liaison

This list of tools and tricks was provided by Angela Hospice patient Matt McKeown. Matt worked as an engineer before he was diagnosed with ALS. As an engineer, tools have always been second nature to him. It all started when Matt’s fingertips became pinched. He found some miniature needle nose pliers that he could palm, and those became his fingertips. His list just unfolded from there. These items have helped Matt navigate life with ALS, and we hope his ideas can help others battling this disease live a little easier.

Items to use in the kitchen
  1. Needle nose and flat nose pliers for miscellaneous grabbing/picking up dropped items
  2. Use textured plastic rocks glasses for an easier grip while drinking
  3. Use plastic/melamine bowls with handles to eat and prepare food
  4. Use taco holders to hold food upright while eating
  5. Miso soup spoons with hooks are easier to use than regular spoons
  6. Curved kitchen utensils are easier to use than regular utensils
  7. Put built up textured grips on regular silverware
  8. Use pizza pan grippers for getting things out of the microwave
  9. If not already prepared this way, transfer all condiments into plastic squeeze bottles
  10. Use plates with raised lips to avoid spills
  11. Get a plastic measuring cup with top read measurements for preparing food
  12. Get an electric jar opener
  13. Get a multipurpose bottle/can opener tool
  14. Get a forward angle knife set for easy chopping and cutting
  15. Use a non-slip lazy Susan for plates and bowls
  16. Get an onion slicing tool
  17. Use a chopper/dicer with bucket
  18. Put a Dycem disc on plates and bowls for easier grabbing
  19. Use a pill organizer with rounded bottoms
  20. Use foaming pump dish soap
  21. Use extra long silicone smoothie straws for soup broth
Items to use in the car
  1. Install a Brodie Knob to make steering easier
  2. Install a car door latch handle to help maneuver in and out of the vehicle
  3. Put Dycem on the windshield wiper knob for easy gripping
  4. Use flat nose pliers for gas pumps and parking lot tickets
  5. Install a seat belt extender for easier buckling
Items to use in the office
  1. Use a rotating plug power strip
  2. Get a handwriting trainer grip for pens and styluses
  3. Get a custom signature stamp for easy signing of documents
  4. Use a knife style letter opener to open mail
Items to use while getting dressed
  1. Use a pocket dresser for buttons and zippers
  2. Buy a dressing aid stick
  3. Buy clothing with magnetic button clasps
  4. Add zipper extensions to clothing for easier zipping
  5. Put slide out wire trays in closets for easier access to clothes and storage
  6. Use “Lock Laces” instead of traditional tie shoe laces
  7. Buy a back scratcher shoe horn combo
Items to use in the bathroom
  1. Use a loofah on a stick
  2. Use a Bottom Buddy for its intended purpose and for cleaning
  3. Get a toilet seat riser
  4. Get a shower step with handle
  5. Install faucets that do not require fingers. Either touchless or single handle faucets. No knobs.
Items to use in the garage or outside
  1. Use hay bale hooks for miscellaneous grabbing and moving
  2. Use a Gorilla cart for no lift hauling
  3. Get a stair climbing dolly and stair climbing shopping cart
  4. Get a shoulder strap for the weed whacker
  5. Install bike lights on rollator for safety
Items to use around the house:
  1. Use cable bundling straps for various gripping tasks
  2. Get a pedal exerciser to help stay active
  3. Invest in a walker with a seat
  4. Get a Dyson handheld vacuum with trigger
  5. Use an extendable s-hook for drapes.This can also be used in the closet.
  6. Get remotely controlled light switches
  7. Use a leaf bag chute for doing laundry
  8. Get a laundry hamper with wheels for easy maneuvering
  9. Use 25” barbecue tongs for getting clothes in and out of the washer/dryer and for picking up dropped items
  10. Use squeeze style fire sticks for the fireplace
  11. Get a quick clamp for miscellaneous holding
  12. Buy a tablet/cell phone holder to prop up your devices – can place on couch cushion or thigh
  13. Attach adhesive cable clip organizers to a table or nightstand for easy device charging
  14. Install an adjustable bed rail for an easier time maneuvering in and out of bed
  15. Add tennis racket grips to anything too smooth or slippery to grip
  16. Use a 6-in meat hook for adding a handle to pick up and carry boxes
  17. Use kneeling pads for couch elevation
  18. Get a car cup holder to wedge between couch cushions
Other tools you might find helpful
  1. 6DoF robot for eating and teethbrushing (still being developed but showing promise)
  2. Kiwi pliers to replace needle nose pliers
  3. Rubber wedges for tipping bowls and mobile threshold ramps
  4. Miscellaneous pick set
  5. Spring loaded scissors

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with ALS and is seeking advice, please contact Angela Hospice at 734.464.7810

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