Returning Home Following Amputation
The period of time immediately after an amputee goes home from the hospital is often viewed as a "waiting" period; the person is waiting to recover from the surgery, waiting to get a prosthesis, waiting to move forward in the rehabilitation process. In reality, these weeks are actually critical to prepare the amputee for successful prosthetic use and a lifetime of better health. There are several things you can do to make the most of this time:
- If you haven't already, meet with your prosthetist (the person who will make your prosthesis.) The prosthetist can provide you with general information about the process of getting a prosthesis and may be able to begin any required pre-authorization through your insurance company.
- Do your exercises! Before you get the prosthesis, the muscles in the amputated leg have nothing else to do. They once were very active with every step you took, but now they are idle. Weakness in these muscles will result in gait deviations (a limp) that can eventually lead to pain in the back, hip, knee and shoulders. Loss of flexibility related to inactivity can also make it difficult (or impossible) to use a prosthesis.
- Begin an aerobic exercise program. Walking with a prosthesis takes more energy than walking with your original leg. Aerobic exercise also helps decrease risks of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, vascular disease and many other health problems. Your physical therapist can help you identify safe and effective ways to build up your endurance.
- Go to an amputee support group meeting, and invite a friend or family member to attend with you. Even if you're adjusting well to your limb loss, you can meet people in similar circumstances, see different types of prostheses and learn valuable tips that even the best doctors and therapists can't provide. Family members can often hear the answers to questions they didn't know how to ask.
- Educate yourself. The more information you know, the more able you are to make decisions that affect your future. Good resources (in addition to your doctor, physical therapist, prosthetis and amputee support group) can be found at www.amputee-coalition.org