The Amputee Coalition of America uses six phases to describe the recovery process after an amputation.
However, understanding these phases and applying them to your caregiving role can be challenging. Let’s take a look at what your loved one may be going through during their amputee journey and what you can do to help them through this process.
Phase 1: Enduring
In the first phase, your wounded warrior may experience the need to focus on the present to get through the pain, while blocking out distress about the future. It is a conscious choice not to deal with the full meaning of the loss.
During this phase, reassure him or her about your commitment and provide a comfortable environment while they are dealing with the pain and loss.
Phase 2: Suffering
In the second phase, the wounded warrior may have intense feelings about the loss of a limb or limbs. These feelings may include fear, denial, anger, depression, and confusion. This emotional anguish about the loss of self adds to the pain.
You can listen and offer help when your wounded service member experiences pain, worry, anger, frustration, and fear. When they request your help, get them to tell you what they need and talk about how you can handle the situation together.
Phase 3: Reckoning
During the reckoning phase, the wounded warrior is: coming to terms with the extent of the loss of limb or limbs, accepting what is left after the loss and understanding the implications for the future, and minimizing his or her own losses in comparison to others’ losses.
You can help your loved one accept current life changes and offer hope for the future by learning with them about advances in rehabilitation and prosthetic design.
Phase 4: Reconciling
In the reconciling phase, the wounded warrior begins to: regain control, become aware of his or her strengths and uniqueness, be more assertive, take control of his or her life, and manage their recovery process.
It is important to show patience during the reconciling phase and let him or her do as much as they can, even if it takes them longer or if they do things differently than you would.
Phase 5: Normalizing
In the normalizing phase, your warrior will begin to: balance his or her life, establish new routines, and once again concentrate on the things that matter, allowing priorities other than the loss to dominate his or her life.
By maintaining a schedule of daily activities, you will help the warrior focus on a routine and restore balance in both your lives.
Phase 6: Thriving
Not all military amputees attain the final recovery phase of thriving. Thriving is being more than before, trusting self and others, building confidence, and being a role model.
To help your loved one thrive, encourage him or her to interact with others who share in similar situations. This provides a positive outlook not only for themselves, but also for those just starting the recovery phase.
Caregiving can be emotionally and intellectually challenging at times for both you and your military amputee. Your support and care are vital in helping your wounded warrior succeed. While this new role in your life can be challenging, know that you are not alone–there is hope.
For more information regarding characteristics of military amputations and strategies for coping with an amputee patient go to Caregivers of Military Amputee. Also for additional information on caregiving, visit Caregiving 101 to learn more about this new caregiving role in your life and the emotional aspects that may affect you and your family.