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Reaching your rehabilitation goals - for amputees

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Reaching your rehabilitation goals - Top tips for amputees

Shoosmiths Serious Injury act for many clients who have undergone avoidable limb amputations for various reasons, such as car or workplace accidents or medical accidents including complications of diabetes, vascular problems, or failure to treat infections. Suitable aids and equipment are vital in assisting our clients to achieve their rehabilitation goals. Whilst no piece of equipment would ever compensate for the loss of a limb, they play an essential role in assisting amputees to regain as much independence as possible. Clients also need assistance with everyday activities and some of these are set out below. 

Natasha Read, specialist clinical negligence solicitor at Shoosmiths Serious Injury comments: 

‘Suitable aids and equipment play an absolutely vital role in assisting our amputee clients with their rehabilitation. Having the wrong equipment, or no equipment, can prevent them from being able to mobilise, look after themselves independently, go back to work and have a devastating impact on their quality of life and mental health generally. I would advise all of those who have undergone an avoidable amputation, of any type, to obtain specialist legal advice and to seek the assistance of trained occupational therapists to ensure that their needs are properly met.’

1. Exoskeletons

These are the crème de la crème of rehabilitation aids. Essentially, an exoskeleton is a powered robotic suit designed to enhance the user’s strength and endurance. They are used during rehabilitation and sometimes thereafter. Often used by those who have suffered neurological or brain injuries, they can assist lower limb (usually above the knee) amputees walk further and with less pain. Electromechanical actuators are attached to the body, along with the use of artificial intelligence to adapt to each persons walking style. This significantly reduces energy consumption for users and allows them to walk with much less effort. 

2. Prosthetics

Prosthetics are the often the mainstay in assisting upper and lower limb amputees to regain mobility and maintain their independence. However,  it is important to remember that different prosthetics are needed for different circumstances. For example, a waterproof prosthetic is needed when going swimming. Spare prosthetics will be needed whilst others are being serviced and repaired. Some users require different prosthetics whilst driving. Appropriate equipment is also needed for sockets and sleeves. There are a variety of state of the art prosthetics now available on the market, but it is important that expert Prosthetists assess and advise on the most suitable prosthetics as they are dependent on a number of factors including age and mobility levels.

3. Hydrotherapy pools

Whilst these pools are commonly used by those suffering neurological injury, hydrotherapy pools have been reported as providing benefits to those with phantom limb pain and also during rehabilitation. Some amputees report that aquatic therapy helps to strengthen core and extremity muscles which are needed to improve balance when learning to stand and walk with prosthetics. 

4. Walking aids

Those who have undergone lower limb amputations will often rely on walking aids, such as crutches, wheelchairs, and mobility scooters. However, it must be remembered that the purchase of these items is not a one off cost. Different aids are required for different circumstances. For example, some wheelchairs are not suitable for all terrains. Storage, servicing, seating/cushions, and spare equipment will also need to be taken into account.  Also, if a wheelchair or similar device is needed within the home, this may have potential implications on the size and layout of the property. Suitably wide hallways, door frames and spaces for turning circles will be needed, along with ramps and appropriate outdoor space. 

5. Adapted vehicles

For the vast majority of our clients, their primary rehabilitation goal is to regain independence, within and outside of their home. A central part of obtaining regaining outdoor independence is being able to use a car or another adapted vehicle. Adaptations can range from simple changes, such as having  an automatic transmission, to having a vehicle which can store a wheelchair and a hoist. Shoosmiths’ client Mark Smith, an above knee amputee, was recently able to return to work as an HGV driver after obtaining a suitably adapted cab. 

6. Bathroom adaptations/ equipment

Many of those who have undergone upper or lower limb amputations require assistance with personal care, which can involve toileting, bathing and getting themselves ready in the morning. Relying on friends, family members, or external carers for help with these most personal tasks can be embarrassing and degrading. As a result, it is important to consider how aids and equipment in the bathroom can assist our clients with regaining as much independence as possible. These adaptations can include wet rooms, shower seats, non-slip floors and suitable space to manoeuvres with or without prosthetics or walking aids. 

7. Getting upstairs

Using stairs is difficult and dangerous for some lower limb amputees, particularly those with above the knee amputations. In those circumstances, single storey accommodation is often recommended. However, if this is not an option, many practitioners consider that lifts are an essential piece of equipment to enhance safety and prevent accidents. This can include simple equipment such as stair lifts, to a wholesale restructuring or refurbishment of the home to allow for a through floor list. 

8. Holidays

Holidays, particulars those abroad, can be much more difficult, complex, and expensive for those who have suffered a disability. For example, arrangements must be made to transport vital pieces of equipment. Additional help may be required around airports, stations and whilst using public or private transport. Ground floor hotel rooms and accommodation with working lifts are often essential. Extra and more specialist insurance may also be required. 

9. Sex aids

In the past this was considered a taboo subject, but the private lives of those who have sustained lower or upper limb amputations, and their partners is almost inevitably affected. There are various sex aids to assist those in regaining and recreating the intimacy they previously enjoyed. 

10. OT/Case management

Identifying, sourcing, installing, and replacing equipment can be a minefield and requires specialist experience. Advances in technology mean that equipment is constantly evolving and developing. Of course, specialist aids can also be expensive and assistance is needed to find the cheapest but most suitable options. For these reasons, many of our amputee clients find the assistance of experienced occupational therapists and case managers are essential during their rehabilitation and beyond. 

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Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022

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