Having a lower limb amputation can alter how you complete your daily routines and activities. One activity we get a lot of questions about is showering. Showering is going to be more challenging after your amputation however, we have some tips and tricks to help you adjust to your new routine! Ultimately the most important factor to consider while showering after your amputation is SAFETY. Staying safe in the shower will reduce your risk of falling and potentially getting a serious injury.
Why it is Important that I Sit Down While I Shower?
The best way to stay safe while showering and reduce your risk of falling is to shower sitting down. Even if you have your prosthesis we still recommend that you shower sitting! It is important that you sit because the bottom of your prosthetic foot is smooth and slippery. The water can also damage parts of your prosthesis over time causing it to rust and no longer be as stable. Luckily there is equipment available that allows you to sit in the shower without having to make any drastic changes to your bathroom.
What Equipment Can Help You Be Safer in the Bathroom?
We have created a list of some equipment that can help improve your safety in the bathroom and make the most out of your showering experience.
Caution: No shower chair or tub bench is untippable! To use the equipment recommended below you must have good sitting balance. If you are concerned about your sitting balance it is recommended that you consult with your physician, occupational, or physical therapist to make sure this equipment is appropriate for you.
A shower chair is great to use if you have a walk-in shower
There are many styles that you can choose from. Make sure that you purchase a shower chair that is appropriate for your weight and height
Follow the manufacturers' directions to ensure that the shower chair is put together and installed appropriately
Average Estimated Cost: $30-$75
Tub Transfer Bench
A tub transfer bench is great to use if you have a tub shower combo
There are also many styles of tub transfer bench and you can select the right one for you by making sure it is appropriate for your height and weight
Follow the manufacturers' directions to ensure that the tub transfer bench is put together and installed appropriately
Average Estimated Cost: $50-$100
Grab bars can be installed or placed in your bathroom to provide areas for you to grab onto to help you transfer onto your shower chair or tub transfer bench
It is recommended that a professional install grab bars to ensure that they are secure and placed correctly in your bathroom
Average Estimated Cost: $80-$250 *The cost can vary greatly depending on the materials used and how many grab bars are being installed
Mirror for Skin Checks
It is important that you continue to perform routine skin checks after your amputation as well as when you are wearing your prosthesis
While you are showering is a great time for skin checks because you will not have to worry about adjusting your clothing to check all areas of your leg
A mirror with a long handle can be used while you are showering to check all areas of your residual limb to check for areas of redness or for wounds
Average Estimated Cost: $15-$30
While a handheld showerhead does not necessarily improve your safety while showering it can allow for you to direct the water to all areas of your body while seated
A handheld showerhead can also help you clean your residual limb! There are more tips for cleaning your residual limb below
Average Estimated Cost: $30-$50 *This price can be higher if your shower requires professional installation of this style of showerhead
If you have decreased balance or you are concerned about leaning forward to clean your leg or residual limb a long-handled sponge can help you out!
A long-handled sponge can be used to reach the end of your residual limb or leg
You just place soap directly on the sponge, hold onto the handle, and use it like you would a bar of soap or loofah in the bathroom
Average Estimated Cost: $10-$20
Does my Insurance Cover Bathroom Equipment?
Unfortunately, the majority of health insurance plans do not cover bathroom equipment. Luckily a lot of this equipment can be found online and the Las Vegas area has some programs to assist people in obtaining durable medical equipment.
The CareChest is an organization that assists people in acquiring medical equipment and other medical supplies. They have an application process and information on their website here!
The Foundation Assisting Seniors is an organization that helps people over the age of 50 obtain medical equipment. You can find their website here!
Tips for Cleaning Your Residual Limb
While you are showering it is important that you clean your residual limb! Before cleaning your limb you can use a mirror to perform a skin check. During your skin check look for areas of redness, irritated skin discoloration, or swelling. If you notice any of these things it is important that you notify your physician. After your skin check you can use a gently body soap and water to clean your residual limb. Cleaning this area regularly will reduce your risk of infection, reduce swelling, and help continue to desensitize your limb. After cleaning your residual limb it is important that you gently pat dry the area and ensure that it is completely dry before placing your compression stocking, liner, or prosthesis on.
If you have stitches in place on your residual limb it is important that you do not get this area wet or place soap on this area until your physician has cleared you to do so. You will also want to avoid getting water or soap on your residual limb if you have any open wounds.
Other tips to Improve your Showering Experience
Keep everything you need for your shower close by. Any extra towels, shampoo, conditioner, body soap, your prosthesis, non-skid socks or shoes, etc. should be easily within reach from your seated position. This will reduce the amount of times you have to transfer into and out of the shower
Some shower chairs or tub benches are smooth and can be slippery. You can place a towel down on the chair/bench to reduce sliding around on the chair
If you are a unilateral amputee use non-skid socks or wear your shoes to transfer onto your shower chair or tub bench to reduce the risk of falling in the bathroom
Practice a "dry" transfer (without the water on) into your shower chair or tub bench before doing this transfer with the water running
Practice transferring onto the shower chair or tub bench with someone else present who can assist you if needed
Bottom Line: Safety is the most important factor when showering after your lower limb amputation. Sitting and keeping your items close by while you are showering will help improve your safety while showering. While you are showering make sure to clean your residual limb.
What we Do: Care chest of Sierra Nevada. (2021, January 13). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://carechest.org/site/what-we-do/
[Photograph of Flexible Inspection Mirror] (n.d.) Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Sammons-Preston/dp/B07W5R51H4
[Photograph of Long Handled Sponge] (n.d.) Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Sammons-Preston-Lightweight-Scrubber-Extended/dp/B0716HRKSR/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=long+handled+sponge+for+bathing+after+surgery&qid=1618541022&sr=8-5
Rossbach, P., & Sheehan, T. P. (2017, August 01). Tips for taking care of your limb. Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.amputee-coalition.org/resources/tips-for-taking-care/
Senior assistance: The Foundation Assisting SENIORS: United States. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2021, from https://www.foundationassistingseniors.org/