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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published July 21 2012

Bursack: Functional products preserve dignity

DEAR READERS: It’s rare for me to write about a specific product because there are generally competing businesses that offer quality merchandise. A package that recently arrived in my mail prompted me to make an exception. It contained samples of stylish clothing protection that replaces the function of bibs.

While many of us have dripped food on our clothing while dining out, few adults want to wear a bib in public. Call it what you will, a bib is a bib. People who have Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Alzheimer’s disease, brain injuries or other disabilities have a greater need for clothing protection than most of us when they eat, yet they have as much right to a dignified appearance as anyone. Enter Kathy Steck of www.dinerwear.com.

Steck, a self-described scarf lover, had seen her share of food accidents on planes, in cars and in restaurants. The entrepreneur decided that there must be a stylish way to protect clothing from food. Her answer was to design a microfiber scarf she calls the Cravaat, which drapes elegantly around the neck, giving the appearance of a scarf but covering the most vulnerable area of clothing. After designing the Cravaat, she realized that her product would be helpful for people with disabilities, so she began to market it for people with unique needs as well as the general public.

Over time, feedback from customers encouraged Steck to design a larger cover-up. Her solution was the Cravaat II, which drapes over the head and flows onto the lap. Eventually, she was asked to design a cover-up that worked better for men. This effort resulted in the “napkin at your neck.” The “napkin” attaches under a shirt collar or sits higher on the neck and is large enough to protect against nearly any spill. All styles resemble clothing more than bibs.

While on the subject of useful products, I’d like to remind readers about the Alzheimer’s Store at www.alzstore.com. Mark and Ellen Warner, a couple devoted to helping people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers by publishing the free Alzheimer’s Daily News, own a remarkable online store providing products that offer safety, dignity and utility for anyone with special needs. Whether you are looking for a medication reminder or a labeling system for someone with Alzheimer’s, this is the first place to check. Categories include entertainment and spiritual items as well as those that help with the challenges of daily living.

The range of products available online and in stores for people with special needs has exploded. I’m aware that these two websites just scratch the surface. However, when it comes to discovering unique products, they are a good place to start.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com.