By Amber Fitzsimmons, BraunAbility Mobility advisor, MS Physical Therapy
The continuous rise in the rate of diabetes should serve as a reminder for diabetes sufferers of the importance of taking care of one’s self, including foot care. The disease can impair blood flow to the feet and cause nerve damage or an infection, which may cause an unavoidable amputation. More than 60% of nontraumatic lower-limb amputations occur in people with diabetes .
Below find several tips for rehab professionals to help amputees adjust to this new life:
- Emphasize a strong relationship with the health care team.
- The physicians on the rehabilitation team will help amputees adjust to their new body. To assist in patient recovery, a coordinated health care team is essential. The physical therapist, occupational therapist, orthopedic surgeon, podiatrist, and other health professionals must work together with the primary goal of helping the patient return to his or her normal life. A strong bond between the physical therapist and occupational therapist is imperative because they both assist with mobility training after the surgery.
- Additionally, stress the importance of a good relationship with the medical doctor or podiatrist because he or she will provide information about wound repair, including the right foods to eat.
Helping someone who recently underwent an amputation set reachable goals will help him or her gain independence. Because the healing process is lengthy, objectives will give patients motivation to reach them. Ideas include setting a goal of attending your niece’s sweet 16 or joining a chess club.
In order to recover as fast as possible, the best medicine is educating one’s self on what one can do to help the healing process. Because diabetic wounds do not heal normally, it is essential to watch the wound healing closely. Additionally, if the patient is interested in a prosthetic leg, provide assistance in finding a prosthetist, who can also monitor healing as they are fit with a temporary prosthesis.
Part of the education process is learning about mobility options. An amputation does not mean the end of driving days. Recommend a qualified mobility equipment specialist to help the patient choose which mobility vehicle and equipment are right for him or her. Visit driver-ed.org to get more information about finding a certified driver rehabilitation specialist. They can work with the patient on in-clinic evaluations, on-road evaluations, equipment recommendations, and introduce you to a good mobility equipment dealer.
For example, The Braun Corp has more than 200 dealers throughout the country who specialize in helping their customers find a vehicle that suits their needs. Their dedicated staff will sit down with the patient to discuss their options, and will present him or her with a narrowed down list of choices that are specific to their necessities. BraunAbility dealers work with three different vehicle manufacturers–Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda–to configure customizable vehicles fit to individual customer needs. Don’t forget that despite an amputation, patients will still have the ability to drive a vehicle tailored to their needs.
Provide health management tips and resources
Even after an amputation, it’s important for patients to follow a treatment plan specific to his or her diabetes type. Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and control blood sugar levels help prevent additional diabetes complications such as “piece by piece” amputation, or the loss of a foot or leg following a previous amputation due to poor health care habits following the surgery. In order to prevent another amputation, map out a diet and exercise plan with a registered dietician.
Take the time to learn how to help those with diabetes. Along with the increasing rates of diabetes among adults, juvenile diabetes is an epidemic in America. More than 15,000 children–40 per day–are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the United States.
As physical therapists, it is our job to offer preventative care for both those with and without diabetes. Through education, support and proactive management, physical therapists can address the importance of good health and steps to prevent diabetes, as well as further amputations in amputees.
For more information visit the American Diabetes Association.