2017-08-25 / Health & Wellness

Sisters’ invention gives users more independence

Patent awarded to assistance grip
By Melissa Simon

GRIP AID—From left, Simi Valley sisters Kerry, Merrily and Wendy Mellin display their recently awarded patent for the EazyHold cuff that allows people without fingers or who have difficulty with mobility to hold everyday objects. Courtesy of the Mellin sisters GRIP AID—From left, Simi Valley sisters Kerry, Merrily and Wendy Mellin display their recently awarded patent for the EazyHold cuff that allows people without fingers or who have difficulty with mobility to hold everyday objects. Courtesy of the Mellin sisters Kerry Mellin was sweeping out the barn at her Simi Valley home in preparation for a big family party in spring 2014 when she started feeling the ache.

The simple back-and-forth motion of sweeping hurt her hands so badly that Mellin, 56 at the time, was barely able to finish the task.

“I had so much pain in my thumbs from my arthritis, and I ended up taping my hand to the broom just to finish sweeping,” she said. “I’d never felt that much pain sweeping before.”

But that experience set Mellin off on a journey of innovation with her two older sisters, Merrily and Wendy Mellin.

“We’ve always wanted to start a business together and we weren’t getting any younger,” Kerry, now 59, said. “I suggested we do some kind of assistive grip for the elderly, and we started making molds at home in our kitchens the very next day.”

Within six months, the Mellin sisters had completed the prototype for a soft silicone strap with a hole on either end that attaches to a variety of items, including utensils, toys, brushes, bottles and tools, creating a cuff that slides over the user’s hand.

And now, almost three years after coming up with the concept, the siblings have received a U.S. patent for their EazyHold universal cuff.

“I just love that we’ve created this assistive grip device aimed at helping people find more independence with everyday tasks, and we got our patent on July 4, Independence Day,” Kerry said.

Wendy, 63, also from Simi Valley, said creating EazyHold started out as a “selfish endeavor” because the sisters all have some form of arthritis. But it has turned into much more, she said.

“As we’ve been producing the EazyHolds and selling them, we’ve found that the need is so much bigger than we ever realized,” she said. “A majority of people using them are actually children with cerebral palsy or who were born without limbs or fingers.”

The universal cuffs have helped people who have had strokes, those suffering from Parkinson’s disease or Rett syndrome, a genetic mutation that affects brain development almost exclusively in girls, said Merrily, 65, also of Simi.

Children with symbrachydactyly, a congenital abnormality that results in short or missing fingers, have been able to hold eating utensils, crayons and markers, and other everyday items with the cuff.

“It’s really hard to see the children (using EazyHolds) because you’re happy that they’re able to do something for the first time ever, but at the same time it breaks your heart that something like this was needed,” Merrily said.

Rough start

In researching assistive grip devices, the trio discovered that nothing like the EazyHold had been made in the last 40 or more years, with existing grip aids for the most part being made of Velcro, hard plastic or leather, Merrily said. The advantage of their product is it’s made of soft, flexible silicone that is easy to clean.

Despite the need for a product like this, getting their business off the ground has proven difficult, especially because none of the Mellin sisters have health care-related degrees,which hampered their ability to meet with medical professionals.

“We really couldn’t get past anybody, and it was nearly impossible to schedule meetings with doctors or therapists,” Merrily said.

“So we started hanging out at hospitals, therapy centers and even elder-care or veteran facilities. We also went to medical expos and swap meets, and called therapists, distributors and other organizations to see if they’d be interested.”

Ellen Bridge, an occupational therapist and owner of Westlake Village-based KidsSpot, said she was recently contacted by the Mellins and was “immediately intrigued” by EazyHold.

“I have a 2½-year-old that I work with who can’t hold her bottle, a book, a toy or do anything that’s part of her daily activities. But just this week, she was able to do all those things for the first time (with EazyHold) and it was such a beautiful experience,” Bridge said.

“I believe kids should be as independent as possible (and) EazyHold really helps with that,” she continued. “This is really something that I can use with my clients of all ages, from 2 to 15 years old. And it all goes back to helping them do tasks more independently.”

The sisters’ determination has paid off, with more than 50,000 cuffs now being used in schools, hospitals, therapy centers and homes worldwide, Wendy said.

“Our goal is to eventually just have buckets of colorful different-sized EazyHolds in these places that children can use,” she said. “We also want to be able to donate them to special-needs classes that might not be able to afford them.”

To learn more about the product, visit www.eazyhold.com. The cuffs are also available for purchase on Amazon.

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