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Approach to limb loss needs to change - report

Published: 22 June 2018 at 12:11

Carer helping man with prosthetic leg

Research finds families and carers of military veterans struggle with lack of support

People with limb loss and their family carers cope differently and therefore need to be assessed separately, according to a ground-breaking new report based on research carried out by Anglia Ruskin University.

The research, commissioned by the veterans with limb loss charity Blesma, funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT) and undertaken by the Veterans’ and Families Institute for Military Social Research (VFI) at Anglia Ruskin University, consisted of interviews with 72 veterans who had lost limbs, and their family carers. 

It found that the victim of limb loss and the carer will experience different levels of coping to each other and should be assessed separately. From the findings, a model details key stages in living with limb loss where certain types of care for the victim and their family carer or carers are more likely to support coping, long-term wellbeing and independence for both parties.

The research details how people with limb loss and their carers manage day-to-day living, and the strategies they use to overcome difficulties. What is clear is the physical aspects of living with limb loss are better managed, however the emotional and social aspects of limb loss are less well supported. The model provides details holistic support the victim and their carers need in order to cope.  

Integral within the population of veterans in the research is a military legacy, which means the victim and their family may not admit to, or acknowledge needing help or support. 

Senior Research Fellow at Anglia Ruskin University, Dr Hilary Engward, who conducted the research, said: 


“The study found a very strong military ethic that you just get on with things and don’t complain, meaning that families were compromising their own health in the process. There is an overwhelming need to recognise that the veteran and their carer will cope differently. 

“A key recommendation is that health care professionals need to better understand how being in the military, for example, may shape an attitude of not admitting pain as doing so suggests weakness.

“When it comes to staying healthy, the main focus is perhaps obviously on the veteran. However, the carer could also be suffering from health conditions but, because they are so busy caring for their loved one, they neglect to look after themselves.”

Barry Le Grys MBE, Chief Executive of Blesma, said: 


“The recommendations from this report could have a huge impact on the lives of military families but limb loss also affects the general public with more than 7,000 amputations being performed every year, mainly from vascular conditions. 

“Limb loss obviously changes families’ lives and their welfare can suffer. When a partner or close family member becomes primary carer there is a huge shift in parameters which can lead to a range of problems. We believe that by listening to the families, we can enhance their wellbeing and alleviate a huge burden on the NHS.”

Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), said: 


“One of the founding principles of FiMT is ‘to promote better mental health and well-being’ for ex-Service personnel and their families. This report for Blesma highlights the necessity of considering the impact of coping with limb loss on the wider family unit, as too often carers’ well-being is overlooked.”

The report, titled ‘Caring and Coping: The Family Perspective on Living with Limb Loss’ will be distributed to professionals in health, social and care services and the charity sector. Click here to read the full report.