Why A Peer Visitor Should Be A Part of Your Rehab Program
Losing a limb is a life changing event. If you're a recent amputee, you're entering into a new phase of life with a lot of unknowns. The uncertainty of the future can create a wide range of emotions -- stress, anxiety, depression, anger -- as well as countless questions. It can be hard to imagine what the future will be like.
When coping with a life-altering event like an amputation, talking to someone with a similar history can offer extremely valuable insights into the rehabilitation process. By speaking to another person who shares your experiences, you can begin to unravel your own feelings of fear, doubt, worry and confusion and begin to imagine a new life that's productive and enjoyable.
What Is Prosthetic Peer Visiting?
To help amputees navigate their new experiences and emotions, hospitals often arrange peer visits. Your assigned visitor will be a source of information, guidance, and emotional support to help you navigate the questions, decisions, choices and alternatives you'll face as you adjust to your new body. Prosthetic Peer visits are useful before and just after the amputation, but they go on for months afterwards so they can help with whatever questions come up after you've left the rehab hospital. A peer visitor can be a model of a successful recovery, an example of what you can achieve with effort and determination.
Peer support may be one-on-one or it may be through a support group. A group setting usually provides a chance to learn from a variety of experiences and viewpoints as you ask questions, discuss issues, and ask for input from other members. You'll be able to compare prosthetic equipment, or discover different approaches and solutions to the same problem.
A peer support program goes beyond medical intervention. It's emotional intervention and empowerment. And it's a great resource for both those new to the amputee community and experienced amputees who want to share their knowledge and experience with others.
Why You Should Take Advantage of A Peer Mentor
Support during your rehab and recovery takes many forms. Friends, neighbors, family members and others who care about your well being will all provide assistance, guidance, information, and an ear to listen when you need to share your fears and concerns. But they won't know what you're experiencing.
Your peer visitor will be another amputee who matches your amputation, cause of amputation, age, and gender.
A peer visit from an experienced amputee can be very helpful and comforting before your amputation surgery. Some questions only another amputee can answer about discomfort, mobility, or what it's like to wear a prosthesis, and he or she can also tell you what services you might need once you leave the hospital, or about local resources that can help you.
Peer supporters listen, share their coping mechanisms, give you insights into your own experience by talking about their own, and most of all demonstrate that life goes on -- your life can still be full, happy, and productive with a few years of hard work and the help of a prosthetist.
Why Become A Peer Visitor?
Many experienced amputees choose to become peer visitors because their own peer mentor was so encouraging to them during their own recovery. If you'd like to become a peer mentor, you must first complete a training program. (An untrained peer visitor can unintentionally cause harm to the people they want to help.)
As a peer visitor, you have to be great at communicating -- able to listen and comprehend what your mentee is experiencing physically and emotionally, and to provide correct and coherent information. Training develops communication and listening skills, as well as your ability to be objective. Once you've completed your training and been approved to be a visitor or group leader, establish relationships with hospitals and rehab centers so that they'll begin to connect you to patients who have requested a peer mentor.
Peer Support for Spouses & Family Members
Many times spouses, family members, or other caregivers have questions and need support as well. Often they want to help but they don't know how, or they have their own anxieties and concerns. Peer visitors also exist to offer encouragement and support for them, to help them understand what they need to do and how they can help. Some spouses choose to undergo peer support training focused on what to say to another spouse or caregiver, rather than another amputee, and they are matched to other spouses and caregivers in the same way that amputees are.
If you're interested in connecting to a peer support group or mentor for amputees or amputee caregivers, let someone on your Amputee Care Team know, or check out The Amputee Coalition for info on the certification process, requesting a peer visit, and group locations.