“Amputees need fellow amputees with whom to learn and share experiences.”
Thank you for your interest in starting a support group. A strong support network is an important part of adjusting to limb loss and can be an invaluable place for a new amputee to:
- observe others who are successfully coping with limb loss
- learn new coping strategies
- practice skills in a supportive atmosphere.
Starting a support group is a responsibility and challenge that can be very rewarding. The Amputee Coalition suggests these basic steps:
- find two or three individuals that share your enthusiasm
- plan the first meeting
- choose a place, date and time
- hold the initial meeting
- spread the word and watch it grow!
Find the Right People
- Most support groups are formed by one or two dedicated people. You obviously have the initiative and willingness to help others, but you will need help!
- Use your enthusiasm to recruit other interested people.
- Seek support from:
- those who have experienced limb loss
- family members
- hospital and rehabilitation professionals
- and counselors.
- Establish the integrity of the group from the beginning. The group should not be affiliated with a prosthetic center or rehabilitation center. You may accept space or supplies from them, but you cannot be seen as endorsing one practitioner or facility over another if you want referrals from the entire community.
Have a Plan
- understand your specific reasons for wanting to start a support group
- outline an action plan that will meet the needs of potential group members
- see if your group will need to meet very specific needs (such as parents of children with limb loss)
- determine the type of meeting to best meet the group’s needs by asking for input, considering options such as an open discussion, social gatherings or formal programs with a speaker.
Tip—the best groups combine all of the above.
Find a Meeting Place
- look for a free meeting space in your community
- contact local hospitals, churches, independent living centers, senior centers, orthotic and prosthetic facilities, libraries and service clubs
- remember to consider the accessibility of your meeting place—check doorways, aisles in the meeting room, and parking for accessibility
- choose a date and time that works best and keep in mind that it can always be changed in the future.
The First Meeting
- the first meeting is the time to discuss your action plan
- you may want to choose officers such as president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer
- keep minutes of the meeting
- choose a name for the group
- set goals for the group
- set a time and date for your next meeting.
Stay in Touch
- communicate regularly with your group members
- consider calling members to remind them of meetings or send a postcard a few days before the meeting
- maintaining a newsletter is an excellent way to communicate with group members and others involved with what you are doing.
Publicize Your Support Group
- create a flyer and post in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, orthotic and prosthetic (O&P) facilities, diabetes clinics, senior citizens centers and centers for independent living
- contact O&P facilities to make sure they know about the group and ask them to put your flyer in one of their mailings
- find a contact in the physical therapy or social services department of your local hospital or rehab center and ask to do an in-service for staff—you will get better results if you can keep in contact with one individual
- consider doing a public service announcement for radio or television—call them for guidelines.
Keeping Your Support Group Strong
- meet on a regular basis in a central location
- offer a peer visitation program
- offer programs that are appropriate for a wide variety of ages, or focus on one age group
- combine structured programs with social events
- formalize the group’s structure so that responsibilities are divided among a group of people
- allow time for amputees and other group members to visit and express themselves during meetings.
Amputee Coalition. National Peer Network: Member Support Group Manual. National Limb Loss Information Center, 2001
The Amputee Coalition of America, Inc. (Amputee Coalition) is pleased to provide this manual free of charge to member support groups (contact the Amputee Coalition for membership benefits). It is an invaluable resource, and one of the many tools utilized in developing support groups. Since each state has specific laws governing nonprofit groups, you will want to contact your state’s Attorney General’s Office or Secretary’s Office for further information and/or resources. Additional advice also may be available through Independent Living Centers, legal aid societies, volunteer accountants and attorneys, and/or local chapters of nonprofit organizations such as the American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society.
If you have questions, please call the Amputee Coalition toll-free at 1-888/AMP-KNOW (267-5669) or visit us online at www.amputee-coalition.org