Having a limb amputated is understandably a life changing experience. Whatever the reasons for the amputation, it is incredibly important, for both the amputee and the families, to regain a sense of normality in their lives.
In order to achieve this goal, there is naturally going to be a period of adjustment to ensure that your home is suitable to accommodate your recovery. However, careful planning, organisation and learning as you go along will mean you can start living your life again.
Rehabilitation and returning home
Your rehabilitation will start in the hospital, with fully trained medical staff, in an environment that is fully equipped to cope with your condition. However, the average home can pose a wide range of obstacles for an amputee, but most can be overcome with time.
The prospect of going home and all the obstacles you and your family may face, can leave you with mixed emotions. On the one hand there is excitement and relief, but on the other hand there is apprehension and anxiety about how it is going to work.
These feelings are perfectly understandable so make sure you talk through any concerns you have with your health carers before you leave the facility as they will be able to offer you advice and support in coping.
Also, they can be addressed by your occupational therapist when they come to assess your home for accessibility and safety before you leave hospital. They will also make additional recommendations for equipment that will help you to live more independently.
Changes to consider
To make life a little easier, here are a few things to consider changing in your home before you are released:
- Remove mats or rugs on polished or tiled floors – they can be problematic for wheelchairs and prosthetic legs
- Fit grip bars in wet areas – shower, bath, bathroom and toilet.
- Place anti-skid mats for the shower/ bath floor for extra safety
- Use a shower stool/chair or bath seat for more stability when bathing
- Install hand rails for steps and stairs to assist with balance, stability and safety
- Temporary portable ramps will give easier access into your home. You may want to consider installing a permanent ramp depending on your needs
- Move coffee tables, hall tables and any other non-essential furniture against walls or out of a room completely during the early stages of rehabilitation as they can be challenging to navigate around and impede access
- Arrange items so they are in easy reach, allowing you to do things for yourself
A key part of your rehabilitation will be an individualised physical rehabilitation programme. Working closely with your occupational therapists and physiotherapist will help you to regain your strength and mobility as quickly as possible. These programmes are designed to get you active and independent so you can carry out normal day to day activities unassisted.
Once you are up and mobile it is important to remain as active as possible. Living an active life can help amputees’ recovery, as it will not only improve fitness and strength, but keeping active and healthy will keep you motivated and can help with depression and anxiety too. Taking a short walk each day, or having a swim at your local swimming pool are great ways to keep active and meet people too.
It is also incredibly important to maintain a healthy diet, especially in the rehabilitation stages. Making sure your recovering body is getting the right nutrients and vitamins it needs will help keep your energy levels up and weight gain down. Your medical care team can advise you on the appropriate foods you should include in your diet.
Another part of recovering your independence after an amputation may be getting back behind the wheel of a car and getting out and about. Depending on the type of amputation you had, this is a perfectly possible scenario.
Although, in most cases amputees are required to re-take a practical test to assess their abilities behind the wheel. There are modified vehicles specifically designed for amputees to learn to drive in, with qualified instructors who understand the different needs of amputee drivers. You may find that you need to adjust your driving techniques to allow for your amputation, but there are a whole range of modified cars that have hand controls, left foot accelerators or spinner nobs.
Getting your life back on track following an amputation poses many obstacles on the way, but there is help and support out there to help make it an easier transition and ensure you get your independence back.