Not all experiences are equal; even in the limb loss and limb difference community, the one thing that connects us all impacts us differently. For example, people with upper-limb loss may go through different life events and struggles than those with lower-limb loss; no two journeys are comparable. The theme of experiential difference rings true, especially for people in different economic and social situations.
One researcher who has sought to highlight the stress of financial difficulties that individuals with limb loss face is Dr. Szu-Ping Lee, an associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He and his collaborators conducted a series of studies focusing on the stresses that financial instability and limb loss can cause. From 2016 – 2019, Dr. Lee and his colleagues conducted interviews and surveys from lower limb amputees living in the Las Vegas area that were non-military. In total, 90 people participated and shared how experiencing financial difficulty after their limb loss affected their physical health, mental health, and daily life.
The result of the study found that participants who viewed themselves as financially unstable also reported their emotional and physical health negatively impacted their abilities to do day-to-day activities. Financially unstable individuals indicated that their physical and emotional health affected their work life and social life twice as much as those who were financially stable. For example, if the survey question asked, “How much have you cut down on the amount of time you spent on work or regular daily activities due to your physical health?” On a 1-5 scale, 1- being, “It doesn’t affect me at all” and 5 being, “It Severely Affects me.” Financially stable people would likely put 2, while those who were financially unstable would rate themselves as a 4.
So, what does all this mean? This study further emphasizes that the limb loss journey will not be the same for everyone, and there should be measures to protect and promote patients’ well-being after amputation. One way to improve this situation is for physicians and health policymakers to consider the impact of a person’s financial situation on their emotional health before amputation. It is the healthcare system’s responsibility to strengthen insurance policies to ensure patients’ needs of rehabilitation are supported as to minimize the impact of amputation on quality of life. Joining a local peer support group may also help patients with recent amputation to adapt to the changes in life. Everyone comes from different backgrounds, but we all deserve to have our well-being protected and supported no matter the situation.
Authored by Dr. Szu-Ping Lee, an associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
- Arya S, Binney Z, Khakharia A, et al. Race and Socioeconomic Status Independently Affect Risk of Major Amputation in Peripheral Artery Disease. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2018;7(2). doi:10.1161/jaha.117.007425
- Lee S-P, Chien L-C, Chin T, Fox H, Gutierrez J. Financial difficulty in community-dwelling persons with lower limb loss is associated with reduced self-perceived health and wellbeing. Prosthetics & Orthotics International. 2020;44(5):290-297. doi:10.1177/0309364620921756