There is no place quite like home.
When you first get home though after a hospital stay for that involves an amputation, some new challenges will await you. We are not trying to burden you by reminding you of this fact, but I think we both can agree that life is obviously different when you return back home.
The following is a list of “must haves” we have received and put together from previous patients, when the subject of returning home after an amputation comes up.
We are not trying to give people medical advice in this post, but instead we are just presenting the top “essentials” we have heard from amputees for when they do return to their residence. The following are some items patients preferred and are in no particular order of significance.
1.) Assistance From a Home Nurse To Help With Dressing Changes
Some of the amputees we are in touch with, state that they preferred help when dealing with their dressings. Having a dressing on your residual limb is a relatively new concept for most amputees after surgery. There can be some gray area if you have not had to do this kind of self care before without other experiences to relate it to.
When a nurse visits your home, the nurse can check the status of the residual limb. They can check for appropriate healing of the residual limb. They can look for signs and symptoms of issues that may develop. Issues such as infection, skin irritation or incision breakdown can be caught more quickly by the experienced eye of a nurse in many instances. This can be of great help to an amputee that doesn’t exactly know what to look for yet. Moreover, a nurse can monitor the color and temperature of the residual limb prior to performing a rewrapping procedure.
The nurse might not come everyday for example, but a little extra help after being discharged from a hospital or nursing home was found to be helpful for many amputees. Or, at the very least, a checklist of what to look out for helped new amputees that are trying to heal and return to normal activities of daily living.
2.) Skin Sensitive Soaps
Some patients have told us that they had gotten home and realized that their skin is more sensitive than it was before. This is especially true around the incision line when cleaning themselves.
In an effort to address sensitivity issues in this regard people told us that they looked at skin sensitive soap to help prevent irritation. Sometimes stronger soaps do not work well when they want to help keep the wound clean.
A new incision line can be very sensitive and sometimes if it good to proceed with a little different approach when it comes to soaps. While it is best to talk with your doctor prior to using the soaps that we are about to name, we have heard that other amputees have used them with success.
A.) Cetaphil is a name that we have heard is a more gentle kind of soap.
B.) Dove : In addition, Dove appears to have skin sensitive skin bars as well.
(Again, please check in with your doctor prior to using these soaps.) On their websites you will see that these companies pay a lot of attention to different types of skin so this is a good place to stop when looking for more information.
3.) Soft Towels
Patients had also mentioned getting extremely soft towels to use when cleaning their leg and drying it was also helpful.
As far as towels go, we did some research and there appears to be some towels that are more soft than the “norm”. We are going to list some towel brands here that you can check out. We did not test them ourselves for purposes of softness, but they are made of soft material such as Egyptian cotton which helps to keep your skin from feeling dry and scratchy after use.
The following is a list of towel companies you might want to check out :
D.) Kassatex Cobblestone
We are not insisting that you must go with one of these towels. It is just our way of trying to help you find a way to help feel comfortable at home while you are trying to clean yourself and the incision line.
4.) Crutches and Walking Canes For Home Use
Patients may use crutches or a well fit walking cane to get around the house after a surgery. Many times they are recommended for amputees, either by their physican or therapist.
It is important though to get the correct size as many walking canes and crutches you get. Sometimes people get them from a store with good intentions but often times they are technically not your size. A little help from a therapist or other medical professional can help you in this regard.
Some patient’s we work with state that they can move around more quickly in the short term with the use of crutches and like to use them in the short term before getting a prosthesis.
A therapist can help give you tips as well to avoid an friction issues that may develop at the superior (top part of the crutches) where some people state they get discomfort.
Good upper body strength and dexterity is important when it comes to these devices and checking in with your clinical team, including your physician about getting crutches is a good idea before getting them for yourself or a loved one who just had an amputation.
5.) Wheelchair For Public Use
Patients may be advised to use a wheelchair in public. This is especially true for individuals that just had a surgery and are trying to get all of their strength back.
If you are an amputee that wants to be out and about it is a good idea to have a chair like this ready, at the very least for when you get tired of walking etc.
As you already know, falls can be very dangerous for anyone but especially for an amputee. Therefore, a chair like this can be of assistance in terms of saving energy and helping to prevent falls.
Here are a few companies online that you can check out that provide wheel chairs. We checked to make sure they had great ratings and at the very least they can give you information above and beyond this post to get you more precise information :
A.) Mobility City of DuPage County
6.) Hand Rails In The Home For Safety
People have mentioned to us that installing rails around the walls at their home to help with mobility. Whether you are able to walk with a prosthesis or not, having hand rails in your home is never a bad precaution. Falls after an amputation can become an issue, especially if the incision is not yet totally healed as we have mentioned. Not only that but falls can lead to other issues as well.
You can look for at many places for hand rails for your home. Here are 3 companies that you can check out that can help you in this regard.
A.) Calderon Steel, Inc. Orland Park, IL
B.) Mike’s Custom Stairs, Railings and Trim
C.) Unit Step Company in Joliet, IL
This list is obviously not all inclusive, but these three companies have good ratings and we think it is a good idea to have a look at them while you are searching.
7.) Soft & Firm Supports For Sitting & Reclining
Some patients we spoke with also said that they could not sit on the couch or recliner chair they were used to sitting in.
After a surgery their doctor said to temporarily avoid sitting in the chairs they had at home. This is because their doctors told them that they would not give enough support.
As a result, some of the patients reported getting rather firm and formal chairs to help support their posture and legs. Again, this is partially a preference thing, but you might find it helpful to consider this as an option for your home.
Some patients got different pillows to help them when they were supposed to lie down on their back and on their stomach.
8.) Ramps For Home Use
Some patients got ramps with rails for home to help with less chance of falling.
There are many different kinds of ramps when you get into the details.
Below is a list of 3 ramps styles that you can also find online :
A.) Aluminum Ramps : Often times aluminum ramps can adjust, which is nice. They can adjust in height as you can see toward the right side of the picture, as the deck meets the house.
The length can also adjust to a certain amount as well. The length adjustments obviously depend on which one you get. They also can offer you permanent non-skid surfaces which is good if you leave it outside and weather is involved.
B.) Rubber wheelchair ramps. These can be used for door thresholds and steps that you may have at your home or place of work.
If you are in Illinois and you are reading this you can check out Ramp Now as well for more information on ramps. Some ramp companies, such as this one have other services such as bathroom safety equipment, stair lifts and vehicle solutions that can help a new or experienced amputee feel more safe in and around their home and car.
C.) Gateway Ramps (With and Without Handrails) : These ramps can be longer in length. Many can be 36″ wide and up to 8-10 feet long for example.
Moreover, the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) states that institutions such as commercial businesses and schools and other public facilities should make reasonable accommodations for those who are disabled to gain access to said entities.
For more information on the ADA check out : ADA. gov
9.) A Compression Shrinker & Donning Tube
Edema is a big issue for many new amputees. Controlling it and reducing the edema is of primary importance directly after an amputation surgery. This is because you will need to be held to a consistent and minimum amount of edema before you can start using a prosthesis.
If edema is an issue and you are sized for a prosthesis, then you can shrink over time and the prosthesis will be loose fitting. This can contribute to a lack of confidence with a prosthesis and it can also increase the possibilities for falls.
Shrinkers for residual limbs as seen in the picture to the right (with a donning tube aid) can really help patients take control of their edema and move toward using a prosthesis.
The donning tube as shown can be of great assistance to people applying a shrinker because it can prestretch the shrinker and avoid a tugging feeling on the residual limb.
10.) Tens Units
Some people bought a portable TENS unit to use at home when they were not with their physical therapist.
These devices do not cure pain, but rather block pain signals. This can be helpful nevertheless but need to be approved by your doctor before using them.
Many companies sell them online or you can go to a local pharmacy to get one potentially.
Some physical therapists may recommended massage oils to help with the muscle pain that the patients may have experienced, and how to help reduce pain and swelling. Desensitization can be a skill set taught to you by a therapist as well so you can begin prosthetic treatment.
*Please remember that we are showing these examples in an effort to help you but we can not claim this to be medical advice. It is health information that needs to be discussed with your doctor and treating team after a surgery such as an amputation. We hope this information helps you and we wish you the best of luck after your surgery.