Amputees should keep in mind that things can go wrong, so always be prepared. Here are some tips to help you.
AMPUTEE SURVIVAL KIT AND TRAVEL TIPS
Keep an amputee emergency kit handy when you are at work, when you travel or are away from home for the day. Your checklist of useful items for traveling with a prosthesis should include:
- Extra one-ply socks
- Spenco for skin irritations
- Allen key to tighten parts of the prosthesis. Remember: except for an emergency, you should not make any adjustments to your prosthesis.
- Ace wrap
- Upper-extremity myoelectric users should keep a dime to release their arm, an extra battery, and Mo-Jo hand cleaner to clean the prosthetic glove.
ADVICE FOR AMPUTEES DURING Bad Weather
Ice and snow can be difficult to walk on for anyone. If you must go out in bad weather, be extra careful and use shoes with good treads or take along a cane for extra support.
For advice on avoiding dangerous spills, we turned to three MossRehab physical therapists – Ali El-Kerdi, PhD, DPT, Jennifer Gulla, DPT, and Stephanie Tornquist, DPT. Together, the three therapists recently created the MossRehab Community Falls and Injury Prevention Initiative. Below are tips for amputees on staying on your feet in difficult weather conditions.
- Who is most at risk for falls in cold, icy weather?
Everyone is at risk. Physical therapy clinics become inundated with patients two months after winter starts due to people slipping on ice. Obviously, individuals with balance deficits—whether they are older or younger—are at particular risk, along with people with neurological conditions and individuals with special needs. Further, anybody who uses an assistive device —a cane, a walker, crutches—is usually is at higher risk, as well, as are people living with amputations.
- Why do people using assistive devices need to be extra careful?
People often use devices to improve their balance during walking, so any amount of ice or slippery material in front of them is going to make it harder for them to walk. They will face more challenges, and they are at a higher risk of falling.
- What tips do you have for those people who still need to get out in this weather?
It is all about planning. In slippery conditions, never be in a rush to get anywhere. Allow enough time to get to where you are going. Find out if there have been road closures. Find out if your streets or sidewalks have been plowed. Slow down, slow down, slow down. Don't be in a rush. Plan where you are going. Give yourself enough time to get there.
- What else can people do to prepare before going out in icy weather?
Wear warm clothing to avoid hypothermia if you do fall and are unable to get up. Have a cellphone or some other device to call for help, if needed. Do some planning in case you get stuck somewhere and can't get home. Bring an extra dose of medication. If a blizzard comes and you are stuck away from home, you'll need your medication. Plan in advance for the worst-case scenario while hoping for the best.
- Any other advice for amputees in bad weather?
Proper footwear is key. Wear shoes that have good grip on the bottom. If you do have a balance problem or are using an assistive device have someone else clear out your steps and sidewalk and make sure to throw sand or salt down to decrease ice buildup. It's a good idea to install rails next to steps to give you something to hold on to. Go out with someone else who has better balance who you can hold on to and can be more reactive if you fall or slip, Just having someone else there can make you a little more safe.
- Any tips for walking if you find yourself on an icy patch?
Walking on ice, you have to change the way you walk. Usually in therapy we teach people to take nice long steps, contact first with your heel, push off with your big toe. The opposite is true for walking on ice. On ice, we want short steps. Contacting on the middle of the foot, never on the heel. Keep assisted devices tight to the body. Short, choppy steps. (See video above.)
Maintenance OF PROSTHETICS
Prostheses, like anything else, can wear and break over time. Always check your prosthesis for loose parts, cracks in the socket, etc. Abnormal noises can be an indication that something is not right. Contact your prosthetist or doctor if you think there may be a problem.
Skin CARE AFTER AMPUTATION
Skin within the prosthesis needs to be checked daily. Always check your skin after removing the prosthesis, especially if you participate in an activity that is out of the ordinary. Dancing at a wedding, a weekend game of softball, or a long walk on vacation—these all can add unusual amounts or points of pressure inside your prosthesis and can cause skin breakdown.
For more information and advice for amputees, join us for our next Amputation Abilities Support Group