Home Modifications for People with a Bilateral Upper Limb Difference
by Amber Henson, on Nov 16, 2021
Modifying a home for a person with bilateral upper limb loss or limb difference can seem daunting. There are many different factors to consider. We already have an article about bathroom hacks for people with a bilateral limb difference that discusses how individuals can become more independent with bathroom routines.
Since bilateral amputees don’t have a sound hand to assist them, one of the first things they need to learn about their prostheses is how to don and doff – how to put them on and take them off. In the mornings, the first step of someone's day might be donning their prostheses. There are two ways to accomplish this: have a setup where they can independently don their prostheses using a donning sleeve (often referred to as a parachute bag) or apply an antiseptic hand sanitizer like Cal-Stat to the residual limbs, making it easier to don the prostheses. In the video below you can see our patient Jason Koger doing this with his myoelectric devices.
An alternative way to don the prostheses is by using a dressing tree. An adjustable dressing tree can be configured at our center and is designed to help hold the prostheses in the appropriate position so the patient can don them independently. A more permanent dressing tree can be created in the patient’s home to ensure they can independently don and doff their prostheses.
In the kitchen, cooking without a prosthesis may prove to be quite difficult – you can read our article to learn more about doing things in the kitchen with prostheses. But eating doesn’t necessarily require you to wear your devices. In the picture below, our patient Gerry is using his custom-made cuff to eat with a fork.
Voice-activated light switches, televisions, stereos and phones have become more popular with the general public lately and may be especially helpful to those with bilateral limb loss. These can be set up individually or linked to a “smart” system that uses wi-fi/Bluetooth to control all the devices. Switches can also be modified so they can be activated by a foot versus a hand. That’s the kind of switch you can see Gerry use in this video about running his skill saw.
Our clinical therapy specialists are sometimes available to visit our patients' houses to help with modification suggestions and resources. In addition, having a peer with a limb difference, especially someone with bilateral limb loss, can provide not only emotional support, but also may offer practical advice about modifications they’ve made to their own home. Arm Dynamics has a peer support network where we connect our patients so they can share tips, experiences, and personal support. In this video, you can watch Gerry, who had his accident in 2016, and Jeff, who lost his arms much more recently, have a chat about the value of peer support:
We also recommend checking out the organization Enhancing Skills for Life, whose mission is to “educate, empower and connect those living with bilateral upper limb loss.” They hold workshops, conferences, webinars and even fundraiser bowling tournaments that can help people navigate many aspects of life, including home modifications.
Would you like to learn more about how we help our bilateral limb loss patients? Please contact us. You are also welcome to comment below with suggestions or questions for our team. Thank you for learning with us!