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Farming adaptations for persons with amputations

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Farming is not only a way of living, but it is many peoples' passion. When individuals who have had an amputation wish to return to work on the farm, there are a variety of adaptations that can be made to assist in their return to work. It is important to return famers to their desired functional level so they can reach their goals of independence. It is also imperative to consider their safety and to protect them from getting injured. Use of electronics and technology, such as centralized controls, hydraulics, monitoring systems, and computerization, on modern farms is making it easier to apply assistive technology to help those that have been faced with an amputation.[1]

Contents

Modifications for Persons with Upper Extremity Amputations

The National Ag Safety Database published safety tips for farming with upper extremity limitations. The following are types of modifications or adaptations they suggest that could be useful to farmers with an upper extremity amputation [2]:

1. Wear a custom-made padded glove to prevent skin from breaking down in areas of decreased tissue or around bony prominences.

2. One-handed nail starters are a good substitute to hold a nail in place.

3. When climbing with a prosthetic device, don’t rely on the terminal device to grasp an overhead rung on a ladder. Instead, wrap the forearm of the prosthesis around the outside of the ladder.

4. When working around livestock, use the far most grip on the prosthetic terminal device to grasp the animal’s chain so that you can more easily let go.

5. A quick-release chest harness allows you to quickly release the prosthesis from the residual limb if it is caught in something.

6. Use jigs, fixtures, clamps, or vice grips to compensate for the loss of gripping ability.

7. Use one-handed tools and other labor-saving devices to help prevent additional injuries to the affected limb or injuries to the other hand or arm.

8. For bilateral arm amputations, additional steps made out of non-slip material, wider steps, and hand holds could be added to farm machinery to make mounting and dismounting safer due to decreased balance and gripping ability.

An additional modification that could be useful for someone with an amputation is to modify farming equipment and vehicles with a spinner knob on the steering wheel for easier steering [3].

Spinner knob modification for a steering wheel
Spinner knob modification for a steering wheel
Adding additional steps can ease accessibility to machinery
Adding additional steps can ease accessibility to machinery


Modifications for Persons with Lower Extremity Amputations

The National Ag Safety Database also published safety tips for farming with lower extremity limitations. The following are types of modifications or adaptations they suggest that could be useful to farmers with a lower extremity amputation [4]:

1. Use outdoor mobility aids when maneuvering around rough rural terrain. These aids include manual, electric/gasoline-powered wheelchairs,all-terrain vehicles, golf carts, and riding lawn mowers.

2. Foot guards and modifications to controls for all-terrain vehicles and lawn mowers should be considered if there is a sensation loss or loss of control of the leg or foot needed to drive.

3. Special cane tips for snow, ice, and loose gravel can be used for extra stability.

4. To accommodate lost strength in mounting and dismounting, add a manlift, non-slip steps, wider steps, additional steps, and hand-holds to farm machinery.

5. Use hand controls or clutches to operate a tractor.

6. Automated feed systems, using round bales, and raising the decks for the hogs can assist in tasks related to contact with the livestock.

7. Automatic gate openers and automatic hitching devices can be used.

8. Modifying the seat cushions or installing an independent suspension seat provide protection and shock absorption for the residual limb.

9. If walking out in the fields to check crops, follow wheel tread marks to avoid the unknown terrain that can be hidden by tall weeds or crops.

10. When climbing over fences or walking on unstable ground, lock the prosthetic knee for greater stability.

11. If doing a task that requires standing for long periods of time, a sit-stand chair or stool may be useful to relieve pressure without interfering with the task.

Tractor lift assists person into tractor
Tractor lift assists person into tractor
Tractor was modified with hand controls
Tractor was modified with hand controls


Resources

AgrAbility

AgrAbility offers assistance to farmers with disabilities and their families. They are a good source to link people to others in similar situations, to provide referrals to retraining and farm modifications, and to demonstrate assistive devices for farmers. Contact information for the closest AgrAbility project can be found on the website: http://www.agrabilityproject.org/index.cfm. This website also contains links to many interesting articles they have published related to people with disabilities working in the agricultural field.

Articles

  • Reed, D. Understanding and meeting the needs of farmers with amputations. Orthopaedic Nursing. 2004;23(6):397-405. Dissertation that explores the process of reentry to farm work of 16 farmers with an upper extremity amputation.


References

  1. "Assistive technology and rural life." Oklahoma ABLE Tech. Accessed on November 30, 2009.
  2. "Safety tips for farming with upper extremity (arm) limitations." NASD. Accessed on November 30, 2009.
  3. "Edelstein JE. Special considerations – Rehabilitation without prostheses: Functional skills training." Atlas of limb prosthetics: Surgical, prosthetic, and rehabilitation principles. Accessed on November 30, 2009.
  4. "Safety tips for farming with lower extremity (leg or foot) limitations." NASD. Accessed on November 30, 2009.