Amputation, whether it’s a limb or a toe, can be a difficult and traumatic experience. And everyone copes differently.
It’s normal for you to feel a range of emotions from relief (if you were suffering from constant pain before the amputation) to grief, anger, and even depression.
Coping After Amputation: Adjusting to a New Life
Having a limb amputated means being dependent on others for help, at least for a time. As you recover and go through rehabilitation, you will steadily regain more independence and learn how to do basic daily activities in a new way. Although it may be difficult to ask for help, you’ll need it at first, and it’s important to learn to accept help when offered.
However, needing help can make you feel like you’ve lost some control of your life. Recognize what you can do for yourself and let others know when you do and do not need help.
Emotional struggles are normal. Realize that you don’t have to deal with them alone. Talk with family and friends, a counselor, or support group about your feelings. Finding others who have gone through a similar experience may help you realize what’s possible. Spiritual support may also help you, whether from church leaders or members, or just taking your own time to reflect.
Life After Amputation: Recovering Physically
Rehabilitation starts while you’re still in the hospital and can last weeks or even months after the amputation surgery. Depending on your needs, a rehabilitation program will help you re-learn how to dress, walk, and eat, as well as balance and coordination, how to care for your skin around the amputation, and how to adjust to a prosthesis.
- Physical therapists will help you take care of your skin, manage swelling, and deal with phantom pain. In physical therapy, you will also learn how to care for your prosthesis and how to put it on and take it off. You’ll also learn stretching and strengthening exercises, as well as gait training to help you stand even and regain balance.
- Occupational therapy will help you regain independence by helping you master activities of daily living. These include basic household chores, bathing, getting dressed, and toilet and tub transfers. Your occupational therapist will also recommend and show you how to use any assistive equipment that will make life at home easier. The therapist will also provide you any environmental modifications you need at home, at work, or for driving.
Going out for the first time after an amputation can be intimidating. It helps to practice things you’ll encounter before going out so you feel more confident. Either at home or in a rehab program, you can practice navigating curbs, stairs, ramps, and uneven ground. As you continue working, you will begin to regain some normalcy and feel more confident about your abilities. In time, it helps to focus on what you can do, rather than what you’re unable to do.
Mental Health After Amputation
If you feel signs of depression, such as lack of motivation, loss of interest in things you once cared about, and ongoing grief or sadness, talk to your therapist or a counselor. The earlier you get help, the sooner you’ll feel better and can continue recovering.
Find more information on the UPMC Centers for Rehab Services website.