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Limb loss is a life-changing event, no matter the cause, and the idea of returning to work can cause great anxiety. If you have a colleague who is recovering from an amputation and wants to come back to work, here are a few ways to support them, both as a friend and as a co-worker.

Educate Yourself

The best way to support someone who has lost a limb is to educate yourself on their ‘new normal’. For many of those who have had limbs amputated, life may have gotten better, particularly if the amputation was required to alleviate pain or prevent worsening conditions. However, for those who have suffered sudden limb loss, navigating life after an amputation can be a complete shock and unexpected. Regardless of how the amputation came about, it can cause significant disruption to many aspects of a person’s life and require a lot of adjustment. Unless you have suffered from an amputation yourself, you will not know how your colleague is feeling so researching and educating yourself can help you support them. 

As such, educating yourself on how your colleague and friend may be feeling and ensuring that they do not feel isolated is a great way to support them.

Workplace accessibility

Accessibility should be a given in the workplace to allow everyone to feel included and comfortable. Mental health research has shown that engaging in social activities and having a general life purpose is highly beneficial to physical and emotional well-being, so creating an accessible space for all colleagues is highly important.

If your office isn’t particularly accessible, you should speak to your HR department and your colleague to find out ways in which the company could better support them. Government schemes such as Access to Work can assess and provide equipment to help your co-worker get back to work in a way that is suited to them.

Of course, there is a wide range of amputations, including gross and fine motor impairments, and the type of amputation will determine how the individual’s needs can be accommodated. For those with gross motor impairments, accessible parking, toilets, breakrooms, and office spaces are highly important. This may mean modifying workspaces to make them accessible such as having adjustable desks to accommodate wheelchairs and ensuring that materials and equipment are within reach of the colleague. 

When it comes to fine motor impairments that affect fingers, hands, or arms, speech recognition can be a huge help for your colleague if they struggle to type after their amputation. Larger keyboards, one-handed keyboards, or a foot mouse and touchpad can also be a way to ensure that your colleague is still able to work in an office setting if they so wish.

Listen and Help

While seeing a friend or colleague go through limb loss can be difficult, it is not the same kind of difficulty that your colleague will be experiencing. As such, it is important to support them the way that you would like to be treated, and if you aren’t sure – then ask. Many of those who suffer limb loss report feeling patronized by others when they are congratulated on small tasks or offer to do everything for them, so while it is important to encourage your friend, you should be wary of this. You should also avoid asking them what happened as if they want you to know then they will share this with you, if not – it is not your business to ask.

While there may not be a huge amount of support that you could give them outside of work, the offer is still likely to go a long way. For example, you may offer to help them to travel to work or help out around their home if they are struggling to adjust. You may also consider helping them to make an amputation claim if they were subject to medical negligence or the amputation was due to an accident. The compensation that they could receive from this may help to manage the social and medical consequences of the amputation and aid in specialist equipment and help them to regain their independence and mobility. There are also plenty of support groups for both amputees and their friends and family, so you may be able to point them in the direction of one of these groups, or if you are close friends, even go along yourself. This can be a great way to understand how to navigate your friend’s new life and ensure that they live life to the full!