Making adjustments to your daily routine and activity level will differ between every new amputee. Whether or not you have received your first prosthesis, there are changes you can make to prepare yourself for the change post operation. Some changes will be more difficult than others, but your care team and prosthetist are there to ensure your transition to your limb loss journey is a smooth one. Click here for a brief overview on the prosthetic fitting process.
Home and Lifestyle
Directly after being released from the hospital, your first challenge may be navigating your own home. If possible, make a list of all of the changes necessary to make living in your home safe and comfortable before going in for your amputation surgery. Major changes may include having ramps put in over stairs, installing an electric chair ramp, or other major modifications to get around your home.
While modifications will differ between types of limb loss, we encourage you to consider making temporary modifications until you know it will work best for you and your day-to-day activities. Some tasks may be more difficult or cause you an excessive amount of effort that will exhaust you or cause your body harm and strain. Trying different techniques or tools will help you determine the best alternative and increase your daily productivity around your home.
Here are some basic tips on a room-by-room setup to help you get started:
- Kitchen: Move frequently used items to lower shelves or cabinets to avoid the need for stools or ladders. Use a grabber tool for higher-up items if necessary. When possible, sit at your kitchen table to prepare meals.
- Hallways and Entryways: Install permanent or temporary handrails at the entryway to your home for easy entry and exit of your home. Remove doors to widen doorways for wheelchair access. Install motion-sensor lighting around the interior and exterior of your home for visibility. Remove rugs or other floor clutter to minimize trip hazards.
- Bedroom: Install bedrails to easily get into or out of your bed. If your bedroom is located on an upper or lower level requiring the use of stairs, consider temporarily relocating your bedroom to the main level immediately after your operation to avoid injury or exhaustion.
- Bathroom: Install rails in the shower and/or bathtub, as well as around the toilet. Add a non-slip mat to the bottom of your shower and/or bathtub to prevent falls. Purchase a bath chair or bench if space allows.
Here are some questions to consider when modifying your home:
- Will this modification help me get around my house easier?
- What is the long-term effect of having this modification?
- Will this modification need to be repaired or altered in the future?
- How will this modification fit with my current activity level?
- Is there a temporary solution to this problem until I have adapted to using it daily?
Driving and Transportation
Depending on your specific type of limb loss, driving is still a possibility and can be an independent activity. Wheel-chair accessible vehicles are an option for individuals who are not able to drive themselves or if their device is not driving-compatible. Some vehicles can even be modified to suit your specific needs.
For those who are able to drive themselves, here are a few tips to ensure your safety and comfort are met:
- Adjust the seat: Allow yourself plenty of leg room to enter and exit the vehicle comfortably and safely. Once you have settled into your seat, simply readjust the setting so you are ready to drive. This can be especially helpful to lower-extremity prosthesis users, but upper-extremity may also find this helpful.
- Adjust the wheel: Having the steering wheel lower and within reach to your knees will allow for an extra layer of friction in the event your hands should slip at any point while driving. Utilize your knees for stability.
- Parking: If parking on a hill, park with your car facing downwards. This will make the door easier to open and close, so you do not have to fight the weight while entering or exiting the vehicle. Utilize handicap parking when possible to allow more space around you to enter or exit the vehicle. If you do not have access to handicap or are not authorized to use them, try parking closer to the passenger side line to maximize the driver’s side space.
If you are in a position where driving yourself or accessing a car are not options, the Americans with Disabilities Act has mandated that public transportation be paratransit. This means that they are accessible and can provide the appropriate accommodations for wheelchair users, prosthesis users, and other disabilities protected under the ADA. This transportation is free or low- cost to users.
Some questions to consider when deciding on driving yourself vs being a passenger:
- Can my car be modified to make driving more comfortable or easier for me?
- Am I capable of traveling by myself or will I be putting myself or others at risk?
- Does the thought of driving myself make me uncomfortable?
- What are my alternatives to driving myself?
How Can We Help?
Take your time adjusting to using your prosthesis after your surgery. You might not be prepared for everything and some challenges might be more difficult to overcome than others. Make sure you keep your wheelchair, crutches, or other assistance devices within reach of you at all times. If at any time you feel like you’re struggling or have questions about your adjustment, talk with your care team or prosthetist. They will be able to help you determine your level of independence, limitations, and overall comfort to select the best alternatives.
This content includes information provided by Amputee Coalition and First Step: A Guide for Adapting to Limb Loss. For more information or resources on how you can make adjustments to your daily activities, please visit www.amputee-coalition.org.