Getting Yourself Back on Track

One of the most important things for many people is getting our lives back to the way it was prior to amputation. Obviously some changes will need to be made and you may experience daily challenges, but in most cases these can be overcome in time.

Returning home or to your place of residence

Heading home for the first time can raise mixed feelings; excitement, anticipation and anxiety for both you and your family. Moving around a hospital can be very different to navigating the way around your home. Many homes have lots of stairs to access the property, carpet instead of vinyl floors, toilets and bathrooms that are not always easily accessible and doorways that are small and difficult to enter or exit.

Ensuring that you are going to a place that is safe and accessible is important. Your occupational therapist will discuss options for modifications and assistive devices prior to your discharge. They may arrange a visit to your place of residence (with you where possible), to discuss your needs.

 

There are a number of things that you need to consider prior to leaving hospital:

  • Think about how you will access your home?
  • Is your home accessible to move around?
  • Can you get into and out of the shower/toilet?
  • It is important that your place of residence is accessible and safe.

 

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Bathroom aids can make showering and washing easier and safer.

Tips for lower limb amputees

  • Remove mats on polished floors and tiles. They are a nuisance for wheelchairs and also trip hazards for prosthetic legs.
  • Hand rails for stairs can assist with balance and stability.
  • Furniture like coffee tables and hall tables can be challenging to navigate around; place them near walls and out of the way of the main thoroughfare.
  • Anti-slip mats for the shower/bathroom floor are safer options and the use of a shower stool, chair or bath-seat can help to prevent trips and falls. Your occupational therapist will discuss the option of grip bars in the wet areas (such as the shower, bathroom and toilet).
  • Arrange things to be in easy reach so that you are able to do things for yourself.
Remember if you are unsure of something ask. Healthcare providers are there to help you.

 Tips for upper limb amputees

  • Regular shoes laces can be exchanged for specialised laces or alternatively you can use shoes which do up with Velcro.
  • Devices such as a combined knife/fork can make eating easier.
  • Specialised computer keyboards are available for people with one arm.
  • Specialised boards are available to make things like cutting, chopping and opening jars easier to manage.
  • Some amputees will opt for Velcro instead of studs or buttons to enable them to change doona covers.

Although changes may need to be made and you will face some challenges, becoming an amputee may mean that you can do most of the things you used to do, but in a different way. Sometimes it’s just a matter of careful planning, organisation and learning as you go. 

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Vehicles can be modified to suit your needs.

Driving 

Driving may be an important part of your independence.  If you have medical approval and your health checks out you will be able to have your licence re-instated. In some states/territories people are required to be re-tested for their driver’s license and/or have restrictions placed on their licenses such as: ‘automatic only’ vehicles. 

Vehicles can be modified to suit your needs and there are a number of companies which specialise in the re-fit of left-foot accelerator pedals, wheelchair hoists and the installation of spinner knobs or hand controls. Some people even manage to ride their motorbikes again.  Push bikes and motorcycles can also be modified if required.

The modification of a vehicle can vary depending on the age of your car and the state you reside in. Some states offer financial support via their aids and equipment programs. 

Your Social Worker will help you with the application process to obtain state government concessions if you are eligible. These can include:

  • Accessible Parking Permit
  • Multi-Purpose Taxi Program card  

The Multi-Purpose Taxi Program provides the user with a financial discount on the metered fare. The discount value can differ in each state or territory. (Conditions apply). If you plan on travelling interstate, the Taxi Directorate can allocate you interstate vouchers which can be used while you are away.    


Parking

If walking a long distance is difficult for you, a disabled parking permit will assist with close access to venues.

A person may hold a permit if they have a significant permanent ambulatory disability. A disability that is not likely to improve within the person's lifespan. Applications forms can be obtained from municipal councils. Permits will only be issued to permanent residents of a municipality. Applications need to be completed by a medical practitioner. Permits are recognised elsewhere in Australia, however parking conditions may differ between States and Territories and should be checked prior to travelling.


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If you need a parking permit speak to your local council or the authority in your state or territory.

Returning to work

Returning to work can be a major milestone to overcome. You may or may not be able to undertake the same role you did prior to losing your limb/s. Many companies offer return to work programs and the Government has programs in place to assist you to make the transition easier. Modifications can be made to the workplace to aid your return and enable you to fulfil your requirements. They recommend that you stay in contact with your employer during your absence and discuss future opportunities.

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If you need assistance to return to your place of employment, speak to your employer about workplace modifications.

Travelling

Going on holidays and travelling is a part of life for most people. Even if you have had an amputation there is no reason why your future travel plans should change.

Some important things to consider when travelling is to be prepared and check everything prior to booking your destination. Most travel agents and travel companies have programs in place to support people with disabilities. If you know that you will require assistance, make sure you ask, what is available prior to making your booking.

Hotels

While many hotels offer accessible rooms not all accessible rooms comply with the Australian standard, making it difficult for people to be independent away from home. If you have specific requirements relating to your accommodation needs, speak to a representative from the hotel rather than the appointed booking agent.         

Air travel

If you require assistance with air travel and need support to go to and from the gate lounge and/or onto the aircraft, advise the carrier at the time of making your booking.  If you plan to take assistive devices with you; like your wheelchair, let the airline know at the time of booking.

If you are travelling overseas, it is a good idea to carry any prosthetic lotions or gels with you in your ‘carry-on’ luggage. It’s also a good idea to take spare socks and liners in your hand-luggage.

Some amputees chose to ‘carry-on’ their water/shower limb, rather than risk packing it in checked baggage.

Bus and train travel

Providers of bus and train travel usually have accessible vehicles available for people with disabilities. This may not be the case in other countries around the world. Confirm any requirements you may have with the transport company, and seek additional information if needed.

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Travelling doesn't have to be difficult, make sure you ask questions about accessibility prior to making a booking.