An ostomy (or stoma) is an incision in the abdomen generally used to allow human waste to leave the body and be collected in a bag. Supporting a person with an ostomy involves more than just remembering to order ostomy supplies. It involves practical and/or emotional support. Here are three tips to help.
Consider post-op recovery
These days, having an ostomy is not necessarily considered major surgery. That said it can be. Even if it isn’t, however, it’s still surgery and that still needs some form of recovery time. During that time, the person will probably need or at least very much appreciate practical help with all aspects of their life.
Depending on your time and skills, this can mean anything from doing household chores to managing administrative tasks. It’s very important to keep on top of matters such as correspondence, bank statements, bill-paying, and so forth. At a minimum, it ensures the person maintains their credit record. It could even help to protect them from becoming victims of fraud.
Make sure you are well-prepared
Although there’s more to supporting a person with an ostomy than ensuring that you have the right ostomy supplies, this is still a good place to start. This year, there’s even more reason to be prepared. There are still global shipping delays caused by the aftermath of COVID19. It’s therefore particularly advisable to stock up early and thoroughly.
This will also give you time to ensure that you and/or the necessary people know how to use the supplies properly. The good news is that this is generally very straightforward. It can, however, take a little practice.
It will also give you a chance to get into a routine. In particular, you’ll need to work out the practicalities of helping the person to bath/shower. Bags are designed to be used in the bath/shower. Sometimes, however, people just prefer to take them out. If that’s the case, then it’s often most practical to bathe/shower on an empty stomach (and hence empty bag).
Meal-planning is a useful skill for anyone to have. It’s even more useful if you’re preparing food for someone who’s had an ostomy (or shopping for them to cook themselves). It’s arguably vital during the holiday season.
The key point to remember is that a person who’s had an ostomy needs to eat a healthy, balanced diet. In particular, they need plenty of fiber and healthy liquids (especially water) to keep their digestive system in good order. In theory, this puts them in the same position as everyone else. In practice, during the festive season, this may not be the case.
In the real world, many people allow themselves at least a little leeway to be “naughty”. For most people, that’s absolutely fine. You’re just especially good in January. If, however, you’re supporting a person with an ostomy over the festive season then you need to help them to eat healthily without feeling or being left out.
Ideally, they should be able to enjoy the same food as everyone else. If that’s not practical, alternatives should be provided without them having to ask for them. Also, you may need to educate well-meaning family members not to either fuss too much over them or to try to encourage them to indulge themselves too much.