Support Networks

Support is available for all amputees through the Federation and its Regional Societies

Regional Amputee Societies - Amputee Societies are a valuable form of peer support and are a great resource for any amputee, new or experienced, and each Society has volunteers who are available to visit with you and offer support and encouragement. Amputees who are members of an Amputee Society benefit in various ways, but most commonly by the encouragement and companionship provided by fellow amputees. Belonging to an Amputee Society also provides the opportunity of helping or being helped by others with similar disabilities. Membership subscriptions of a Society are minimal – in many cases just $5 per year

Amputee Societies offer a wide range of support services to assist amputees, their families, whanau and friends. These services include:

  • Visits to amputees in hospital and in their homes, offering practical and emotional support and companionship;
  • Encouragement with rehabilitation and realisation of activity potential;
  • Information on assistance available to amputees
  • Information on visits by Limb Centre staff to areas outside the five Artificial Limb Centres;
  • The issuing of Total Mobility vouchers which entitle members, who are unable to use public transport, to a 50% discount on taxis in most areas throughout New Zealand;
  • Social functions which provide an opportunity to meet fellow amputees and discuss common problems.

Family and Friends - In the early days, you will become aware that your limb loss has made changes necessary for everyone concerned for you. Some grief brings anger rather than tears and loved ones will need to be reassured that your anger was not meant to hurt them. It may be difficult for them not to register your ‘difference’ as they face you and it is then you need to show them how it is only what shows that has changed. You are still the same inside. Although an amputation can tax even the strongest relationship, many couples report that they are ultimately able to deepen their bond as a result of the experience. Good communication skills are the key to maintaining an intimate bond while partners balance the roles of partner/spouse and giver or receiver of care.

The loss experienced by new amputees can be extended to friends who may feel embarrassed or even guilty because they do not know automatically just how to relate. Sometimes they over-compensate for those feelings by attempting to take over the amputee’s life. Adjustments take time and you may be able to share with your friends, your feelings and the hope of better times ahead. It may be a good time to learn how to accept care and concern graciously, and it may be the right time to learn how to ask for what you need most of all – a quiet listener.

Peer Support * As you begin to accept this new challenge, it is likely that you will have many doubts and questions regarding your future – about working, raising a family, maintaining a relationship, caring for yourself, and accomplishing basic daily living activities. Other questions may focus on immediate concerns such as the pain you may experience or how the artificial limb will stay on. So where do you turn for information, guidance and emotional support?

Peers come in many different forms and at various times throughout our lives. They are friends, neighbours, family members and others we turn to for help along the way. They provide support, assistance, guidance, information, resources and, most importantly at times, an ear to listen. They listen and offer knowledge from their own experience so that we can learn valuable lessons without making the same mistakes and so gain confidence in our own ability to make sound decisions.

When we are faced with a life-altering event such as amputation, a peer with a similar background brings extremely valuable insight to the new situation. By speaking to another person who has gone through similar circumstances and made the adjustment successfully, you can begin to unravel the knots of fear, doubt, worry and confusion that have you tied up and questioning whether or not life will ever be the same.

A peer visit from an experienced amputee can be most helpful before amputation surgery. A peer can answer your questions regarding such issues as post-operative pain, mobility, prosthetics and adaptive devices, supply information on services you may require after leaving hospital, and help you identify local resources to assist you. A peer visit can also help alleviate your feeling of being alone in your situation with no-one to talk to who can really understand you and your feelings. Full understanding of the amputation experience and recovery process is important to the amputee. Peers help new amputees jump-start their transition to a new life by sharing information, by serving as models of success, and by offering understanding and support.

Excerpts from "First Step" reprinted by permission of the Amputee Coalition of America

 

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