The Nightmare Before Christmas

For most of us, referring to 2020 as “a challenging year” would be akin to referring to spinal cord injury as a “bit of back ache”. What began as the start of a promising new decade quickly descended into a year to be largely written off. Yet, with us now entering the final straight and a vaccine tentatively hovering on the horizon, the hope of things returning to a semblance of normalcy at some point in 2021 seems to be a genuine possibility.  

Firstly however, there is one small matter left to attend to, one final hurdle in the 2020 marathon to overcome – Christmas!

The recent lockdowns and other strict laws we have seen implemented in the UK, have largely been in the hope that, come Christmas itself, people will be able to celebrate with their families: tucking into turkey, exchanging presents, and pulling crackers; as opposed to sending out a mass “Merry Xmas!” text and setting up a Zoom meeting so everyone can watch Strictly together! 

However, before the big day itself comes the build up, and the many, many joyous Christmas tasks that entails…


Ah the classic festive tradition of decorating the limbless, decapitated mannequin!

Home Alone

I must confess that I love pretty much everything about Christmas – the trees, the decorations, the food, the songs, the family aspect, the hustle and bustle of people trying to get in every little thing they need; there’s something magical about the period. As I’ve become older, I’ve grown to enjoy the ramp up to the big day as much as if not more than the day itself. That doesn’t mean it’s not without its challenges mind you, and having a disability that affects my grip certainly plays into this. Staring helplessly at a stack of unwritten cards and a mountain of unwrapped presents would be enough to make me fall to my knees in submission were I actually able to get up again afterwards! 

In previous years, I’ll rather sheepishly cop to having friends and family aid me in a large number of these types of tasks, and I’m sure I’m not the only one committing these acts of festive fraud…

This year however is different. With most of us being told to isolate as much as possible, this December many of us shall be doing the vast majority of our Christmas preparations *gulp* single handedly!

With this daunting prospect in mind, I’m going to take a look at some of the products I intend to use from the Active Hands store and how you too can use them to ensure Yule (sorry!) have a cracker of a Christmas! 

Small Item Gripping Aid

Easily one of the most versatile aids on offer, the Small Item Gripping Aid is my go to aid for all things pen related. Simply slot your writing implement in between the clamps, fix in place with the velcro straps and you’re ready to dive into that stack of unwritten Christmas cards staring ominously at you from the kitchen counter! I’d previously had to rely on pinning the cards in place whilst using both hands to hold the pen and I swear, to this day half my family have no idea who the phantom scribbler is that sends them cards every Christmas!

What makes this aid so versatile is the fact that, not only can you attach each item at any angle you require, but, with some extra Palm Pads, you can attach multiple implements to them and keep them attached, allowing for quick and easy switching between items. I’ve used mine to hold everything from cooking utensils to an electric toothbrush, and I know many people use them to apply makeup as well (one likes to look their best for Santa after all)!

Nimble/Table Top Scissors

If there’s one thing that could cause me to lose my festive cheer each year then it’s the f$*&ing gift wrapping! No longer am I sprawled out by an open fire, gleefully gliding my scissors through paper as I watch a pair of inept burglars stumble through Macaulay Culkin’s house of homemade horrors. Instead, it’s devolved into a test of sheer will, of man versus paper, as I unroll the giant sheet onto the kitchen table then, using two hands, begin to carefully chop through it with the scissors, the cuts quickly becoming less careful and more erratic as the paper squirms and crinkles, leaving me with a rumpled mess that would’ve been neater if I’d taken a chainsaw to it! Thankfully I now have not one, but two options to relieve my wrapping woes and ease my stress levels!

The Nimble is a great, little device that you pop onto your finger and then, using the tiny blade on the end, slice through paper by simply running said finger over it. Ideal for cutting in straight or curved lines, this has brought a real ease back to gift wrapping and is equally great for opening mail or food packages.

Nimble - one finger package opener. Adaptive kitchen equipment. Suitable for reduced hand function: tetra, quad, cerebral palsy, SCI, spinal cord injury, stroke and more.

The other option available are the Table Top Scissors. Place the scissors on a surface in front of your wrapping paper, push down on them and away you go! Operated with one hand, these are perfect for anyone with grip issues or limb difference, especially if a lack of fingers would mean the Nimble was unsuitable. I use both of these and find them never more useful than at Christmas. Trust me, your swear jar will thank you!

Table-top push-down scissors. Suitable for reduced hand function: tetra, quad, cerebral palsy, SCI, spinal cord injury, stroke and more.

On a side note, I would also recommend getting yourself a sellotape dispenser to help with the wrapping, preferably a sturdy one that stays in place on the table, allowing for easy tape tearing. For me, it’s a definite step up from having strips of tape dangling from the door handle! 

Reacher/Grabber

Another highly versatile, multi-functional aid for the holiday season; the Reacher/Grabber is going to be almost single handedly responsible for my Christmas decorations getting put up this year! Simply slide your arm into the brackets and flex your wrist to get the pincer jaws to open and close, the perfect solution for anyone lacking the ability to grip and squeeze a handle.

This tool will come in ultra handy when putting up decorations in hard to reach spots or popping the angel atop the tree. On top of that, I seem to be about ten times clumsier over this period, so it’s always kept in close proximity, ready to pluck the numerous gifts/cards/pens/decorations etc I manage to spill across the floor. And that garish Christmas jumper stashed out of sight and out of reach at the back of the wardrobe? The Reacher/Grabber can pluck that down for you as well you’ll be relieved to hear! 

I will say that, although at first glance this does seem like a pricey aid to have, I looked at it as more of an investment. This is a one time purchase that will last a lifetime whilst also saving you a lifetime of hassle, a Christmas miracle if you will! I was lucky enough to try one out a few years ago and I genuinely couldn’t believe how well it worked and how precise it was; just see for yourself…

Kitchen Pack/Kitchen Pack Deluxe

Whether you’re in charge of organising the family Christmas dinner or simply want to knock yourself up a little Christmas treat, the Kitchen Pack and Kitchen Pack Deluxe contain all the aids you need to cook up a storm with minimal risk of setting off the smoke alarms!

Inside the standard Kitchen Pack you will find:

  • All-purpose knife with right-angled grip, which I use in conjunction with my General Purpose Gripping Aid to cut through everything from raw meat to fruit and veg.
  • Palm peeler, which I slide onto my finger and use to quickly peel fruit and veg.
  • 5-in-1 opener multi-tool, which I use to open all sorts of bottles, jars and cans.
  • Anti-slip coaster, which I use to keep items such as pans, mixing bowls, jars etc steady and is particularly good at preventing slips and spillages.
  • Anti-slip strip, which I wrap around my various pan handles, enabling me to get a much better grip on them and ensuring I don’t spill any hot food/sauces/liquids.
  • Nimble, which I use to slice open various food packages with and find much easier than using scissors or resorting to my teeth! 
kitchen pack with palm peeler, anti-slip coaster and strip, 5-in-1 opener, all-purpose knife and nimble

Upgrade to the Kitchen Pack Deluxe however and you’ll get all of the above, plus the following:

  • Bread knife with right angled grip, which I use to saw through tough baguettes and tiger bread, a tasty addition to any meal.
  • One touch can opener, which with the push of a button can automatically cut the top off a tin can, a life saver as I am no longer able to use a manual tin opener.
  • Jar opener, which I pop over the top of stubborn jar lids in order to twist them off.
  • Automatic bottle opener, which is pushed down over the mouth of a bottle in order to remove the metal cap, because why not reward yourself before/during/after cooking with a chilled beer…or two!*

*Please drink copiously responsibly!

deluxe kitchen pack with palm peeler, anti-slip coaster and strip, 5-in-1 opener, all-purpose knife, bread knife, bottle and jar openers, automatic can opener and nimble

So whether you’re a novice dabbler or a fully fledged kitchen wiz, the Kitchen Aid Packs are ideal for anybody with gripping issues. Personally speaking, whereas no one may be crazy enough to put me in charge of Christmas dinner, I will certainly be putting my bake-off skills to the test with a few festive curries and various cakes over the season, something I wouldn’t have dared even contemplate before I had this arsenal to hand!

N.B. Each aid listed is also available to buy separately if you would rather create your own custom kitchen pack!

Food Preparation Board

A perfect accompaniment for the Kitchen Packs, the Food Preparation Board is a multi-functional chopping board complete with large chopping surface, spiked area, grater/slicer and collection bowl. This allows you to hold items in place as you chop or peel them (extra handy when using the right angled knives or palm peeler), and also grate or slice things such as fruit, veg and cheese, which are collected in the bowl underneath. This compact kit stores away very easily and is a must have for anyone who, like me, plans to get their hands dirty in the kitchen this Christmas.

Chopping board in use

Full disclosure: This is one item that I dont currently possess as it’s only recently arrived in stock. However, around this time of year, I always like to treat myself to an item or two that I know will make my life that little bit easier, and after getting through 2020 with my insanity (arguably) intact, I think I deserve this! 

Cutlery With Loops

This final one technically doesn’t fit in with the whole ‘Christmas preparations’ vibe I’ve been going for, but what’s the point in doing all this baking if you can’t stuff your face with it afterwards?!

Anyone with limited grip knows all too well the ‘joys’ of using cutlery. How tucking into a simple roast dinner can quickly become an infuriating battle as you desperately attempt to saw through your turkey and trimmings without:

  1. Dropping your knife and fork
  2. Causing food to fly off your plate
  3. Skewering an entire turkey leg and gnawing on it like Fred Flintstone
  4. All of the above!

I remember countless times I’ve relied on a friend or family member to cut my food into manageable pieces for me as I slumped back in my chair, defeated by a Yorkshire pudding! 

Enter the Cutlery With Loops. Now all I need to do is slide my finger and thumb into the looped slots, tightening them if necessary, and the cutlery is instantly fixed to my hand(s) with zero worry of me losing grip on it. There are various pieces of cutlery available, from your standard knife, fork and spoon to steak knife and teaspoon. They are well worth the one off investment, especially if lockdown means that, similar to myself, you’re spending a little more time making meals for one.

cutlery for quads, cutlery for tetras, cutlery for no hand grip. Knife, fork and spoon. Adaptive kitchen equipment. Suitable for reduced hand function: tetra, quad, cerebral palsy, SCI, spinal cord injury, stroke and more.

It’s A Wonderful Life 

So there we have it. The cards are written, the presents are wrapped, the tree is up, and the halls are well and truly decked. You’ve cooked and eaten enough food to feed a small army; now all that’s left is to kick back with a cold bottle of beer, stick on some Christmas TV and fall asleep within 10 minutes!

Hopefully this entry has given you some handy hints and tips to make your Christmas that little bit merrier, but if you’re still unconvinced and require more visual persuasion then I’ll leave you with this compilation video showing how Rob is preparing for a family Christmas at ho-ho-home!

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