Home Improvements to Make After an Upper Limb Amputation
by Amber Henson, on Oct 28, 2019
After an upper limb amputation, there are many things to process. But one of the things that will likely be running through your mind is, how do I go through life now that things are so different? In this article, we’ll discuss modifications that can be made to a home after one has lost a hand or arm.
The different activities that people take part in throughout the day have a name: Activities of Daily Living (ADL). These include eating, bathing, dressing, toileting (using the toilet and other personal hygiene activities), transferring (moving from one place to another) and maintaining continence.
For some of those ADLs, having one hand will not affect the success of the activity. For others, you may find that issues crop up. Read on for ways to solve them:
Straws will help when you’re in a rush (chowing down on dinner and wanting to get a quick drink in without putting down your fork). And keep in mind that you need to drink lots of water after surgery and studies show people are likely to drink more fluids if they’re using a straw.
You get in the shower. You want to wash your hair. You need to hold the shampoo bottle to squeeze it and you need to have your palm ready to receive the shampoo. This is not feasible without both hands. One option is to install a dispenser in your shower — like a soap dispenser, but with additional reservoirs for shampoo, conditioner and whatever other liquids you may need in the shower. You can modify the levers so that your remaining limb can dispense the liquid into your sound hand’s palm - or even purchase the soap dispensers that are motion activated. As an alternative, you can buy the types of large shampoo/conditioner/soap bottles that have pump dispensers attached to the bottle.
(Image from AbleData)
Buttoning clothing is something that can be achieved with certain types of prosthetic devices (like a multi-articulating myoeletric hand). But if you do not have that type of prosthetic device, or decide to forgo a prosthesis, buttons and zippers can be difficult. You can modify your clothing to have Velcro closures (see image to the left). Some companies sell clothing with easier-to-use closures (for example, Target has options for children and they are slowly rolling out options for adults). Shoes and zippers are items that can be tackled with a closing-hook electric terminal device, but without that, slip-ons or Velcro closures for shoes may be easiest. We have a whole article about Clothing Options for People with an Upper Limb Difference.
For toileting, pump dispensers are helpful. Soap in a dispenser, hair gel. Deodorant, though … that’s a tricky one. There’s a lot of outside-of-the-box thinking that goes along with being a recent amputee. Check out your local hardware store and let them know you’re looking for something to set up a rig like the one pictured above — or see if you can recreate it ordering items from the Internet. You’ll need a clamp-on flexible gooseneck and some Velcro (are you seeing that Velcro has become your new best friend?). The piece you see above is actually part of a mic stand — so the music store may be of help, too. Learn more about how to make these types of gooseneck stands work for you in our article "Retrofitting Your Bathroom After an Arm Amputation."
As for actually using the toilet, recent amputees may find the process annoying but doable with just their sound limb. You may want to consider a retrofit bidet for your existing toilet. You can find bidet seats online or at Costco.
Transferring - Getting from One Room to Another
Installing door levers, instead of knobs, can make an amputees life much easier. Even with a multi-articulating terminal device, pushing down on a lever is much easier than trying to grab and turn a round doorknob. Of course, you could use your sound hand to open or close a door, but many amputees find that if they’re trying to take something from one room to another, it’s easier carry the item with their sound hand and open the door either with their remaining limb or their prosthetic device.
Don't feel like installing new door handles? Check out these door knob extenders.
Did you know every state has an assistive tech provider program? These programs make it possible for people to try out assistive tech before buying it, and, once making a decision, they can often purchase the tech at reduced rates. These programs also often offer the option of being trained in the use of assistive technology. You can use this site to help find a provider in your state: https://www.at3center.net/stateprogram.
We hope you’ve found these tips helpful. Please stay tuned for upcoming articles in which we’ll go over changes that can be made in the kitchen to facilitate food preparation, changes that can be made throughout the house to facilitate the use of electronics, and ways to make house cleaning easier. You can also check out our article concerning changes that can be made after a bilateral upper limb amputation. Additionally, please tell us in the comments about your own home modifications!
*Please note that none of the above links to products are recommendations — rather just ideas to help get the home modification process started.
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