Dear Savvy Senior,
What kinds of reacher grabber tools can you recommend for seniors who need help picking things up off the ground? I bought a cheap one at Walmart a few months ago that doesn't work very well for me, and would like to find one that does.
--Need a Hand
A good reacher grabber is a very handy tool for anyone with mobility issues. It works like an extension of your arm allowing you to reach down and pick things up off the ground without bending or stooping over. It can also help with reaching and grabbing things in high overhead places, as well as areas that are difficult to get to.
But with so many different reachers on the market today, finding a good one that works well for you is not always easy. Depending on your needs, here are some top options to consider.
Lightweight reacher: If you want a reacher primarily for picking up small lightweight items around the house, the "Aluminum Reacher with Magnetic Tip" by Duro-Med is multifunctional. Available in 32 and 26-inch lengths, it has a trigger-style handgrip with a serrated jaw that provides a secure grip when lifting objects. It also has a magnet built into the tip for picking up lightweight metal objects like a paperclip, and a small hook (or horn) that aids in retrieving things like clothes, shoes or keys. But, because of its lightweight design, it doesn't work as well at retrieving heaver items like canned goods from shelves.
All-purpose reacher: For retrieving small and medium-sized items, the "Ettore Grip'n Grab" can handle most chores. Available in 16, 32 and 50-inch lengths, it has a soft comfortable trigger handgrip and a rubberized jaw that's strong enough to lift objects up to 5 pounds and up to 4 inches wide, yet sensitive enough to pick up something as small as a dime. The jaw can also swivel 90 degrees to reach things in awkward spaces.
Ergonomic handle reachers: If you have hand or wrist arthritis that makes gripping difficult, the 31-inch "Medline Reacher" has a handgrip that lets you use all five fingers to close the jaw for better gripping power. Or, consider the new "HealthSmart GripLoc Sliding Reacher," a 43-inch two-handed reacher with a power slide handle that opens and closes the jaw (no hand squeezing required), and a twist lock that locks the jaw when it's clinched to secure your item.
Folding reacher: For easier storage or travel, the 32-inch "EZ Reacher Collapsible" has a slip-joint in the arm that allows it to fold in half. It also has stainless steel fingers with silicone suction cup tips that do a nice job of picking up large and small items; and a pistol grip with an optional safety lock that locks the jaw onto items without continuously squeezing the trigger.
Adjustable length reacher: If you need a reacher for various lengths, the "PikStik TelescoPik" has a lockable sliding shaft that adjusts from 30 to 44 inches. It also has a trigger grip and a rotating rubberized jaw that can lift up to 5 pounds.
Outdoor reacher: For outdoor use, the 36-inch "Unger Nifty Nabber" is ideal for heavy-duty jobs. It has a rubber-coated jaw for a strong and reliable grip with a built-in magnet, an aluminum handle and can lift 20 pounds.
Where to Buy
You can buy reacher grabbers at many pharmacies, retail, medical equipment and home improvement stores. But, because it's a specialty item, the selection is very limited. Your best bet is to buy one online at amazon.com, which sells all of the top reachers at prices ranging between $12 and $40. Just type the product name in the search bar to find it.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.