Feeling comfortable and fashionable by the water this swim season

By Ellyn Mantell

Living on the East Coast means sand and sun as soon as the calendar pages turn to May, and most have great difficulty saying farewell to the ocean each fall. The smells of delicious boardwalk foods, carnival-style rides, miniature golf and people-watching on the beach fill the days and nights of the summer months. It seems, for all of us, there are not enough opportunities to enjoy our vacations or weekends, and ostomates certainly do not want our particular issues to slow us down!

The first summer after my ileostomy presented a bathing suit challenge, and my creative energy began to flow. Since I love whimsy, I bought a black and white polka dot swimsuit bottom from an ostomy clothing company, which has a place for my pouch, and a soft drape to the fabric. I paired it with a vibrant red tankini, which I bought at a bathing suit store in the local mall. For those unfamiliar with tankinis, I am happy to extol praises on their wearability for all women – they are simply tops for a two-piece suit, but unlike a bikini top, which exposes the abdomen, tankinis cover the entire abdomen and are exceptionally flattering. Incidentally, this 2-piece approach works very well for those of us with a smaller upper body, or vice versa. I loved wearing my attractive ensemble, my pouch was hidden, and my self-esteem was certainly not deflated!

In addition to the 2-piece approach, many women enjoy wearing a sundress, since, like the ease of a “little black dress,” the fit is extremely flattering and there is no concern about pulling together disparate pieces. Most women have a preference about the type of bathing suits they want to wear, and our ostomies do not preclude us from our choices, particularly for those who wish to actively swim or dive. There are even high-neck active swim lap suits for serious swimmers.

Coverups have always been a staple for women, and they are ever more important to some ostomates. A flowy chiffon or traditional linen coverup provides a vertical line for the eye, and since color is always attractive, prints, brights, black and white all call attention upward, making the legs look longer and thinner.

Men can now find specialty ostomy swimwear online and know their pouches are safely protected while swimming or diving, as well. Some prefer to wear under their suits products such as a swimwear coverup or ostomy support wrap, made with lightweight water-resistant material to provide structured support, while compressing the pouch against the body. If there is real concern about the efficacy of their pouching system, some men and women prefer to use a waterproof ostomy cover. And speaking of coverups, men may consider swim shirts, sweatshirts or t-shirts to cover themselves.

No article on bathing or swimsuits would be complete without a conversation about sun protection clothing. This category of swimwear is growing exponentially each year, since the sun is stronger than ever, and our knowledge of the need to be proactive in protecting ourselves is better understood. If you look online you will find UV, sun-retardant and even chlorine resistant swimwear.

Now throw a good book or The Phoenix Magazine your tote bag, add a huge hat or baseball cap, fabulous sunglasses, throw in SPF 50 Sunscreen, some ostomate-friendly nibbles and lots of cool water. Enjoy the day, summer never lasts long enough!

 

Ellyn Mantell blogs at morethanmyostomy.com and is a UOAA advocate and support group leader from New Jersey. 

UOAA conference speaker strategically uses humor to help ostomy patients

By Ed Pfueller, UOAA

If you’re a patient of Janice Beitz, PhD, RN, CS, CNOR, CWOCN-AP, CRNP, APNC, ANEF, FNAP, FAAN,  she will likely look you in the eye and know when to employ humor and when not to. If you’re in a rut you may get an ostomy joke to break the ice. “You think this bag is full of crap? You should see my bother in law,” she once quipped, breaking down all barriers for a man struggling to adjust whose brother-in-law seemingly fit the description.

Dr. Janice Beitz is a longtime WOC Nurse and educator who will speak on the power of humor and hope in emotional healing after ostomy surgery.

Ostomy surgery and chronic illness is not a laughing matter, but how you handle it can be a key to your success. It does not seem to be a coincidence that some of the most well-adjusted ostomates tend to have a sense of humor. Humor can change a negative mindset for you and those around you.

Dr. Beitz has over 40 years of nursing experience in acute, sub-acute and outpatient care settings. She’s explored the science behind laughter and health in academia and has seen it in patient settings. She will be a featured speaker at UOAA’s National Conference in Philadelphia this August.

Her talk is entitled, Intestines Are Soooooo Overrated: Psychosocial/Physiological Issues For Ostomates. She’ll discuss the social, psychological and physical issues of having a fecal or urinary diversion. The session will describe the findings from scholarly work on these areas of interest. Strategies for ostomates to achieve a high quality of life including therapeutic use of humor will be emphasized.

Dr. Beitz also teaches the next generation of WOC Nurses as the director of the Rutgers University Camden Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing Education Program (WOCNEP). Students she has taken to visit the jovial and globetrotting members of the Ostomy Support Group of Philadelphia have left in shock. “They turn to me and say these people have traveled more and have a better life than I do!” Dr. Beitz said.

“They are seriously funny,” Dr. Beitz says of the Philadelphia group led by Stanley Cooper that is always laughing and living life to the fullest.

“She is committed to her students. She is committed to all WOC nurses, and she is committed to all patients that need a WOC nurse to ensure they receive the best possible care,” Stanley remarked.

“Janice loves to have a good laugh and will supply a good laugh when she can. When she spoke to our group, she started off with a funny cartoon from a newspaper that she projected on a screen.” Stanley.

“One thing she said to me after her appearance was that she always wanted to enter a room after being introduced to KC and the Sunshine Band singing Get Down Tonight. That is the type of good spirited, happy, energetic person that she is” Stanley said.

Emotional health will be touched upon in many other conference sessions as well. A session geared toward young adults will address body image and self-confidence with an ostomy. Relationships and sexuality sessions will often center on emotional health as well. Overcoming physical challenges often comes quicker than lingering emotional ones.

For those who have not had a UOAA Affiliated Support Group experience, the peer support at conference can provide a sense of camaraderie that gives an enlightening experience for the many who still struggle with the day-to-day challenges of living with an ostomy. Caregivers are also not forgotten at conference with a session on how to cope with caregiver stress.

UOAA’s vision is a society where people with ostomies and intestinal or urinary diversions are universally accepted and supported socially, economically, medically and psychologically. Connect with us locally, online or at conference and get on a positive path.

At the conference, perhaps we can arrange to turn up “Get Down Tonight” as we welcome Dr. Beitz to give us a laugh and hope about life with an ostomy.

Your stoma care nurse has the specialized training to help you care for your ostomy and address any issues that arise. These professionals are also known as “WOC” (wound, ostomy, and continence) nurses. Stoma care nurses are there to help you make a smooth transition after surgery, and can give you the training you need to care for your ostomy at home. You should consider them your “go-to” resource for ostomy care education, consultation, and troubleshooting.

In honor of WOC Nurse Week, celebrated every year in mid-April, it is important to recognize the ongoing role that stoma care nurses can play in your ostomy care.

When to Contact Your Stoma Care Nurse

Not every ostomy care challenge warrants contacting your stoma care nurse, but certain issues are causes for concern and should be assessed by a trained professional. Connect with your stoma care nurse if you notice any of the following problems.

If you have a colostomy or ileostomy, call your ostomy care nurse if you notice:

  • Skin irritation
  • Recurrent leaks under your pouching system or skin barrier
  • Excessive bleeding of your stoma
  • Blood in your stool
  • A bulge in the skin around your stoma
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Diarrhea with pain and/or vomiting
  • A stoma that appears to be getting longer

If you have a urostomy, call your ostomy care nurse if you notice:

  • Any sign of urinary tract infection
  • Skin irritation
  • Urine crystals on or around your stoma
  • Recurrent leaks under your pouching system or skin barrier
  • Warty, discolored skin around your stoma
  • Excessive bleeding of your stoma
  • Blood in your urine
  • A bulge in the skin around your stoma
  • A stoma that appears to be getting longer

Finding a Stoma Care Nurse and Showing Your Support

If you do not have a stoma care nurse, you can search to Find a Nurse using your state or zip code on the WOCN Society website. This feature is also accessible by clicking the “Resources” icon in the Peristomal Skin Assessment Guide for Consumers, a free, easy-to-use, digital tool designed to help teens and adults living with an ostomy identify common skin problems, provide next steps for care or management, and prompt when it is appropriate to seek support from a WOC nurse.

How Hollister Secure Start Services Can Help

Hollister Secure Start services offer free customized ostomy support for as long as you need it, regardless of the brand of products you use, including help using the Peristomal Skin Assessment Guide for Consumers. Call us at 1.888.808.7456.

 

Incredible WOC nurses make a daily impact in the lives of people living with an ostomy. Show your support for all they do during WOC Nurse Week (April 14-20, 2019) by sharing a story or photo on social media using the hashtag #WOClove.

 

The Peristomal Skin Assessment Guide for Consumers was funded through an educational grant from Hollister Incorporated.

The information provided herein is not medical advice and is not intended to substitute for the advice of your personal physician or other healthcare provider. This information should not be used to seek help in a medical emergency. If you experience a medical emergency, seek medical treatment in person immediately.

Editor’s note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Hollister Incorporated. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Following your ostomy surgery, you will no doubt have an adjustment period of figuring out your new routines and schedule. You will be learning about your appliance, how to use it, when to change it, and how it works. Although there may be frustrating and discouraging days, as you get the hang of your body and the newness of it all, you may also find yourself fascinated with your body’s adaptability. Some of the most resilient, inventive and strong people are ostomates who are changing the way people think by helping to reduce shame around ostomies as well as creating networks and communities to encourage and support others in similar situations.

Body Love

We live in a world where we are bombarded on a daily basis by media showing us advertisements of what beauty should be. The unreachable goals are already set, and then you throw in an ostomy? How in the world are we supposed to love our bodies when we feel so different? Building confidence begins with you. It begins with self-love and embracing your uniqueness. This can take time, and giving yourself the time to heal (both literally and figuratively) and come to terms with the changes and the new daily rhythms will go a long way in boosting your confidence. The great thing about confidence is that it is contagious. Others can feel it in the way you talk, walk, and are proud about yourself and your body, and when they sense it, it transforms the way they see you. This doesn’t mean that self-love is easy and immediate, but it does mean that it is a possible and attainable goal. One of the ways to lead yourself into recovery and learning to love your body is to get active. Maybe you love to run, swim, or hike in the mountains, or you’ve always wanted to join a gym but your disease was holding you back from the commitment of it. Have you always wanted to learn an instrument, or join a band? There are amazing people out there with stories of how they overcame their fears, and also how they discovered the right product for their unique lifestyle and activity.

Every body is different and being patient with yourself and your healing process is vital, especially within the first few months. While inspirational stories about others can help to normalize your situation, it is also completely normal to feel discouraged and down at times. If you are feeling extreme discouragement or hopelessness, don’t hesitate to reach out to a licensed therapist or a healthcare professional. It is important to be able to share as honestly as possible about your situation so that you can begin to move forward.

Inspirational Ostomates

If you are looking for some inspiration from fellow ostomates, there are many platforms out there with information to connect you with people and resources. Feeling like you need some encouragement in embracing your body and its changes? This video is full of helpful information as well as inspiring individuals just like you. As you begin to enter the world of other ostomates and hear their stories, not only will you be able to relate with them, you will also find that they are paving the way for others to be confident in their bodies and, in many cases, thankful for their ostomy and appliance. Maybe their stories will be the push you need to reclaim your life and find that confidence that you know you have in you. Don’t just stop there, why not become one of the inspirational stories that someone else undergoing a surgery leading to an ostomy can read about? Embrace your new life and body.

For More information, visit www.coloplast.us.

Editor’s note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Coloplast. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Enjoy a trouble-free transit with these travel tips.

If you’re traveling by airplane, car, bus, train, or cruise ship, you might be stressed about your ostomy needs during the trip. Don’t worry. With a little preparation, everything can go smoothly.

It’s also a good idea to start with short trips away from home to build up your confidence. Once you’re reassured that your pouching system stays secure during normal day-to-day activities, you can start to venture farther.

Here are a few tips to help you be fully prepared and comfortable, no matter how you travel.

Luggage weight limits: Are you traveling by air with a lot of supplies? Check with your airline and your country’s federal travel agency (e.g., the Transportation Security Administration in the United States) for the luggage weight limit. Weigh the luggage before you go. It may be helpful to use a portable luggage scale. If you’re over the limit, check to see if your airline has a special allowance for medical supplies.

Forbidden items: The International Air Transport Association (IATA) forbids dangerous items on board airplanes. For example, ether, methylated spirits, or flammable aerosol adhesives and removers are considered fire hazards. Scissors also may not be allowed in carry-on luggage – check with your airline or pre-cut all of your skin barriers before traveling.

Pre-boarding security checks: At airports, your carry-on luggage will be inspected at the security baggage check before boarding. If you have medications, get a card from your healthcare professional that explains why you need them. Some countries do not allow certain medications, such as codeine, to cross their borders. A travel communications card from an ostomy association in your country may also be available. United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) offers a travel card to help you be ready for searches or checkpoint questions.

Using airplane toilets: During a long flight, there can be long lines for toilets, especially after meals. Be alert for a chance to use the toilet when most people are in their seats. It’s also a good idea to request a seat near a toilet.

Car travel: Your car seat belt should sit across your hip bone and pelvis, not your abdomen and stoma. If you want to give your stoma extra protection from the strap, you can buy a seat belt pad. You can also use an extension bracket to lower the angle of the belt across your body.

Cruising with a stoma: Are you worried about taking a river, lake, or ocean cruise? Don’t be. If you’ll be away from land for a few days or more, just pack double the supplies you need. Plus, follow these simple precautions and you’ll have a trouble-free voyage.

View or print the full PDF booklet Living with an Ostomy: Travel from Hollister.com.

For similar articles on traveling with an ostomy and other topics, visit the Hollister Ostomy Care Learning Center.

Editor’s note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Hollister Incorporated. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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Exercise your fitness options with these helpful tips

by Wil Walker, MBA, BSN, RN, WOC Nurse Manager, Clinical Education, Hollister Incorporated

When is it safe to start exercising after ostomy surgery?
Stoma surgery is a major event that should not be underestimated. The first few weeks or even months following the operation may be difficult as you adjust gradually to having a stoma. The easiest and most effective form of exercise can be walking. It’s best to check with your healthcare provider to determine the right time for you to begin exercising, as every person can be different.

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I’m nervous about doing sit-ups and crunches because I have heard that I could develop a hernia. Are there precautions I can take to avoid this?
There may be a risk you will develop a hernia around your stoma that can be associated with straining or heavy lifting during strenuous abdominal activity. You can help prevent the development of a peristomal hernia by taking certain precautions. Keep your weight in check and talk with your surgeon before resuming any abdominal exercises.

How will I know that I am sufficiently hydrated?
One good sign of being well hydrated is passing clear or straw-colored urine throughout the day. Dehydration can be a concern for overachievers, whether they have stomas or not. Drink plenty of fluids at every opportunity to avoid problems with your stoma and with dehydration.

I am still very tired after my surgery. What kind of exercise can I do to start out?
Begin by walking in your house. Special videos and DVDs, or even just some invigorating music will help set the pace. You might practice going up and down stairs to increase stamina and endurance. But, if weather permits, walk outside in the fresh air to help boost your physical and mental spirits!

I love swimming but I’m nervous that my pouch will become loose in the water. Is there anything I can do to make sure this doesn’t happen?
This is a valid concern for a person with an ostomy. To determine how your pouch might perform while swimming, it is recommended to “test” your pouch. Sit in bath water for a while and assure yourself that the seal stays snug and leak-free.sports and fitness with an ostomy, sports, fitness, exercise, active living, colostomy, ileostomy, urostomy

I ran my first marathon after ostomy surgery and little red marks appeared on my stoma. What are these and should I be concerned?
With a lot of running, little red marks similar to mouth ulcers might appear on the stoma because of rubbing or chafing. They should heal quickly and disappear with rest. If they don’t resolve, contact your healthcare professional.

When I exercise I perspire a lot. Is there anything I can use to avoid chafing around my pouch?
If your pouch fits properly and is not too long, it should not touch or rub against the skin. Empty your pouch before any strenuous activity as well to decrease the weight of your pouch. Consider using a pouch that has a comfort panel to avoid the pouch film from rubbing against your skin.

Have a question that wasn’t answered here? Check out this helpful new brochure from Hollister Incorporated. Living with an Ostomy: Sports & Fitness.

Hollister Secure Start services provide ongoing support to people living with an ostomy. We are here to help! Call us today at 1.888.808.7456.

Editor’s note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Hollister Incorporated. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Learn how to spot peristomal skin irritation and damage.

 

After your ostomy surgery, your healthcare team likely taught you how to care for your peristomal skin and what it should look like when it is healthy. Ideally, it should be intact without irritation, rash, or redness. The skin around your stoma should look just like the skin on the other side of your abdomen, or anywhere else on your body, free of redness, irritation, or damage. Healthy skin should be the rule, not the exception.

However, if your peristomal skin is irritated or damaged, there may be some signs of a peristomal skin complication (PSC), such as:

  1. Discomfort, itching, soreness, or even pain around the stoma
  2. Recurrent leakage under your pouching system or skin barrier
  3. Excessive bleeding of your stoma – it’s normal for your stoma to slightly bleed after you wash it, but the bleeding should resolve quickly
  4. A bulge in the skin around your stoma
  5. Skin color changes from normal pink or red to pale, bluish purple, or black
  6. A rash around the stoma that is red, or red with bumps – this may be due to a skin infection or sensitivity, or even leakage
  7. Wart-like, pimple-like or blister-like bumps under the skin barrier – this type of irritation can happen any time, even if you’ve used the same product for months or years
  8. Any type of wound or scratch on the peristomal skin

Peristomal Skin Complications — Potential causes and what to do

Irritated and damaged peristomal skin can occur for a variety of reasons. It can be caused by anything from a poor-fitting pouching system, to frequent skin barrier changes, to an allergic reaction to anything that contacts the skin, such as soaps or products used to prepare the peristomal skin. Some studies report up to 75 percent of people with an ostomy experience a PSC.* Although it is a common issue, it should not be ignored.

If you experience any signs of a PSC, contact your stoma care nurse. You should work with your healthcare team to determine the exact cause and the appropriate solution.

For more information on maintaining healthy skin and other topics, click here to visit the Hollister Ostomy Learning Center.

 

* Rapp CG, L Richbourg, JM Thorne. Difficulties Experienced by the Ostomate After Hospital Discharge. JWOCN. 2007;34(1):70-79.

The information provided herein is not medical advice and is not intended to substitute for the advice of your personal physician or other healthcare provider. This information should not be used to seek help in a medical emergency. If you experience a medical emergency, seek medical treatment in person immediately.

Editor’s note: This educational article is from one of our digital sponsors, Hollister Incorporated. Sponsor support along with donations from readers like you help to maintain our website and the free trusted resources of UOAA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Expect More – Take Control of Your Health Care

Part 2 in Series

By Joanna Burgess-Stocks, BSN, RN, CWOCN, UOAA Advocacy Chair

Good communication skills are the key to problem-solving.  This became clear to me when, as an ostomy nurse, I found myself having to unravel what people were trying to tell me when facing a problem.  I realized I was speaking a medical language that was not always understood, and my patients were trying to work with that language the best that they could, but miscommunication often happened, resulting in unresolved problems. One day it dawned on me that I needed to do a better job in teaching my patients ostomy language. Sometimes a change just takes a moment of truth.

My moment of truth!

I was excited and determined as a new ostomy nurse to make a difference in people’s lives and knew that I could, after having lived with an ostomy most of my life; since age three.  My responsibilities in the hospital setting were to teach people how to care for their ostomy after surgery. I would make sure my patient or their caregiver knew the basics of ostomy care. On the last day before discharge home, I would focus on how to order supplies.  I would then say my goodbyes with a simple “call me if you need me”. I realize now, as an experienced nurse, that this was only part of the story. It was not until I became involved with my local UOAA Affiliated Support Group (ASG) and started following online support groups that I became aware of the challenges people experience once they are home and face ostomy care on their own. My moment of truth came one day as I was lying on my bed with my laptop reading story after story on the online support group Inspire of people and their loved ones trying to problem solve skin and stoma issues and difficulties with trying to keep a pouch in place. There I was, an ostomate and nurse who had every resource available to me yet all I could do was offer words of encouragement and some basic information. I realized that I could not adequately offer advice because it was very hard for people to describe what was happening and I didn’t always understand what they were describing to me and sometimes they did not understand what I was saying to them.    

Changing my Approach

I started to pay closer attention to what my own patients would say to me when they called with a problem and realized that they too had difficulty describing the issues. I had taken for granted that ostomy medical language was second nature to me, but not for them.

Because the patients were not able to tell me the problems they had with managing their ostomies in a way that I could use, I was often left with more questions. I could only offer limited answers and my efforts to help often felt useless. Being a medical professional for most of my life, I felt humbled realizing that medical language can be difficult for people to understand.  Unless you have worked in or been around hospitals, you might not have learned medical words. It is mind-boggling just to know the words to use for ostomies. To get the true feeling, it would be as if I were suddenly thrown into having to build my own house and had to understand all the words involved with building. I would be lost!

The challenges that ostomates face at home motivated me to start an outpatient ostomy clinic connected with my hospital so that my community of people had somewhere to go for help.  After seeing patients in the clinic I learned that many ostomates had no idea how to describe the problems they were having with their stoma or skin. Some did not know the type of ostomy they had, some could not describe their stoma and most had difficulty describing their skin problems other than using the words:  red, painful and hurting.

Gaining Wisdom:

What I have found over the years, is that the better my patients are able to describe the problems they are having with their ostomy, the more I am able to help them come to a successful solution; whereby, they are able to help themselves. These patients also feel more confident to explore different pouch choices on their own because they have the confidence to tell vendors ( ostomy supply companies) their own stoma and skin problems. Thus the right pouching  system “match” is more likely to happen, resulting in a positive result and better quality of life. I now know that just as important as teaching someone ostomy care, it is also important to teach the language that is a part of that care.

As you read these tips on ostomy language, be patient with yourself. It takes anywhere from 6-12 months to speak the language of ostomies according to some ostomy nurses!

Know your Ostomy Type (and whether it is permanent or temporary)

Know How to Describe your Stoma:

“Stoma” an opening created by ostomy surgery.
It is located on the abdomen and is red/dark pink in color, moist and shiny.
Some describe it as looking like a rosebud.

Take a look at your stoma. In front of a mirror, look at how the stoma changes when you are standing still, twisting from side to side, bending over, sitting, and lying down. Once you have done that, you can ask yourself the following questions about your stoma:

What Does the Skin Around your Stoma Look Like:

  • Flat and no wrinkles/creasing
  • Skin folds/wrinkles  (describe where and when you see wrinkles and folds; for example “ when I sit I have creasing on the right and left side of the stoma”)

Shape:

  • Round
  • Oval
  • Irregular
  • Smaller at the top, larger at the bottom
  • Larger at the top, smaller at the bottom
  • Has one opening
  • Has two openings

Color:

  • Red
  • Pink
  • Brown (not normal)
  • Black (not normal)
  • Maroon, Blue/Purple (not normal)

Stoma Position and Level:

  • Below skin level ( in a skin fold or sunken)
  • Flush to skin level/at skin level
  • Above skin level

Know your Stoma Location:

  • Right side of the abdomen above the belly button
  • Right side of the abdomen below the belly button
  • Left side of the abdomen above the level of the belly button
  • Left side of the abdomen below the level of the belly button
  • In or near a skin crease
  • In or near a skin fold
  • On a flat skin surface

Know your Stoma size:

  • Use measuring guide to match the size
  • Round stomas are measured by diameter
  • Oval stomas are measured by widest length and width
  • Learn how to measure your stoma here

Know where the stool or urine comes out of the stoma ( this is called the “os” meaning mouth or opening)

  • On the top of the stoma and centrally located
  • Located on the side of the stoma (left or right)
  • Located on the underside of the stoma
  • Located level with skin

Know How to Describe your Effluent (output from stoma)

For a stoma that drains feces/stool

  • Color: brown, green, black, red and black
  • Consistency: thin and watery, loose, thick, soft, formed, pasty
  • Odor: no odor, mild odor, offensive
  • Amount: High output and loose, High output and thick/formed, no output, low output
  • Number of times a day you empty the pouch.

For a stoma that drains urine:

  • Color: Clear, cloudy, amber, straw, blood tinged
  • Odor: no odor, musty, fishy, fecal ( stool smell)
  • Volume: No output, low output, high output
  • Substances other than fluid (e.g., grit, crystals, mucus).

Know Your Peristomal Skin ( the skin around the stoma):

  • The skin is intact, not raw – no skin breakdown
  • The skin has sores – blisters, or looks like a blister without the skin on top
  • The skin is discolored (red, pink, purple, bruised)
  • Skin sensation (normal, itching, burning, painful)

Normal peristomal skin does not have sores, discoloration, pain, itching or burning.

Final Thoughts on Ostomy “Lingo”

Learning a new language can be difficult. My hope is that you will take the time to understand and know ostomy language so that you too will be an expert. The more you know and understand, the better you will be at expressing your needs and be able to find the best pouching system for you. Use this Know Your Ostomy Checklist the next time you need to talk about your ostomy, and see how much it helps!  

Finding Confidence and Rocking Your Own Style with an Ostomy

By Tricia Hottenstein

I was packing to head out on a short vacation to Atlantic City and had all my outfits ready in my brand new suitcase. But when I went to pack my swimsuit, I started thinking about walking around at a hotel pool with my ostomy bag sticking out. Something about a hotel pool as opposed to just walking on the beach made me uneasy. I figure I don’t know the people on the beach and they’ll never see me again. But in a hotel for several days? Those people would recognize me. They’d see me dressed up for a nice dinner and know that underneath all that jewelry and makeup, there was a person with an ostomy bag glued to their stomach. A person who earlier in the day had a wet ostomy bag sticking out between their swimsuit pieces. And let’s be honest. A wet ostomy bag is a revealing ostomy bag. There’s no questioning what’s hiding inside of it. Something about that wasn’t okay with me.

Generally speaking, I feel pretty confident about my ostomy. It saved my life and I went from a love-hate relationship with it, to a genuine love of it, to more of a state of ignorance that it even exists. I’m not shy about telling people my situation and I will often show it to people who ask questions. But when it comes to swimsuits, the struggle has been a little more mental. I’ve previously tried one-piece suits and I hate them. I hate the way they pull on my bag when they get wet, the way they stick to every crevice of my body, the way I constantly check to make sure my bag isn’t leaking the second it starts to puff up. I tried bikini styles. My body is not made for a bikini, and the more often I wore it, the more sure of this I was. And then, hallelujah! The high-waisted trend hit stores, and I found a happy medium. A high-waisted bottom to cover most of my bag while still allowing it to breathe, and a cute colorful top that would hopefully draw attention away from the bag peeking out from my bottoms.

I love that I didn’t need to strip a whole wet swimsuit off in order to empty my bag, and I could easily flip it out after the pool to dry it off (which is a necessity in order to keep my sensitive skin from getting angry). The high waist also gave multiple coverage options and I could choose when and how my bag would be displayed. I could tuck it into the bottoms and feel secure, or leave it out over top of the suit if need be. I chose to secure my bag slightly flipped up inside the bottoms with just the top sticking out. Now this I could rock. And I did. But around complete strangers who would be seeing me over and over again, while never actually talking to me to understand who I was and what I’ve been through? It bothered me.

I bought a pretty cover-up. I tried on several new suits, but none worked the wonders I’d hoped they would. I even considered stopping on the way to the shore to keep trying. And then the lights of Atlantic City sparkled before me, and the tropical drinks and palm trees were calling me from the pool. So I went for it. I wore the cover-up and walked to the pool. Of course, I got stuck with several people in the elevator and noticed their eyes glancing down, and my fidgeting was more than noticeable.

I walked in the pool room and found a chair in the corner. I ordered a drink, hopped in the hot tub, and looked around. And I noticed every single other female in there looking as insecure as me. Ladies with towels draped around them the second they were out of the water. Women with tee shirts instead of swimsuits. Some just sitting on the outskirts, partially hidden by palm trees, in regular clothing. And suddenly I was okay. Forget this bag on my stomach. Every single person has something about them they don’t always love. I’ve got stretch marks I don’t worry about, and plenty of extra flab that doesn’t bother me. But for some reason I was getting caught up over this little protrusion on my stomach; a scar of a war I fought hard against and finally won. And I love this thing!

I was honestly upset with myself over the few days for the waver in my self-confidence. I got out of the hot tub, walked around to the pool, and held my head up a whole lot higher. And everyone who’s eyes glanced downward? They looked at me genuinely, some smiled. Because people who rock their scars in public have already changed perceptions. Chronic illness is becoming less and less of a taboo subject. We’re shaking the world by the shoulders. And THAT is beautiful.

Tricia Hottenstein blogs about life as a mother and living with an ostomy at stomama.com

By R.S. Elvey

Caring for an ostomy can often be a frustrating and challenging experience at any age. But combine advanced age and dementia and it becomes even more of a challenge for caregivers and loved ones. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the number of Americans 65 and older will gradually increase from 15% of our population to 24% by 2050. With this growth has come a rise in existing and new ostomies combined with Alzheimer’s or other dementias. The Alzheimer’s Association of America reports in their 2017 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, “Of the estimated 5.5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2017, 5.3 million are age 65 and older.” The association predicts a half a million new cases of Alzheimer’s dementia will develop annually.

This explosive growth in new cases of dementia is putting an enormous strain on family caregivers. The Family Caregiver Alliance estimates, “44 million Americans age 18 and older provide unpaid assistance and support to older people and adults with disabilities who live in the community.” These caregivers often have little or no preparation or support in providing care for people with disabilities such as stoma care. They become frustrated and worn out. In an online forum, an anonymous writer expressed her frustration about caring for her mother’s stoma as follows, “I am TIRED of it. I need someone to take over dealing with an ostomy and ordering the correct supplies for her, etc… And I am just going to make whatever decisions seem right regarding her bladder care, as I find out more info. I really wanted to yell at her tonight and that makes me feel like a terrible, awful person. I didn’t, but I did get a little firm.”

Studies have shown that family caregivers who provide care to family members with chronic and disabling conditions are also putting themselves at risk of developing emotional and physical health problems. When seeking stoma care information, caregivers often participate in online chat rooms and forums for anecdotal advice. Additionally, visiting nurses with wound and ostomy training often make home visits and teach ostomy care. But when they leave the caregiver is often faced with ever-changing challenges as their loved one’s dementia worsens. Most often they face the challenge of not knowing when a pouch needs to be emptied, appliances being ripped off by their loved one or attempts to empty and change the appliance that miss the mark and require massive cleanups.

Realizing the complexity of stoma care and dementia and the pressure it causes to caregivers, the Colostomy Association of the United Kingdom and the Dementia Association of the United Kingdom combined to issue a twelve-page downloadable leaflet at www.dementiauk.org entitled, “Caring for a person with a stoma and dementia”. They readily recognize that not all persons with dementia will profit from learning to care for their stoma. But where it is possible a person should be encouraged to participate in their own stoma maintenance.

The leaflet’s content is based on input from health professionals who care for ostomates with dementia and a stoma. A few of the hints and tips included in the publication are:

  • “People with dementia who are actively involved in changing their bags should be encouraged to wear gloves. This reduces the risk of infection, feces under the nails and fecal spreading.”
  • “Some people with dementia who require their bag to be changed for them might resist. In these cases distraction could help. For instance, encouraging the person to clean their teeth or brush their hair during the process might be helpful. Standing the person in front of a mirror so they can focus on the task they are performing and not the bag change can help.”
  • “Bag choice is important. One-piece bags with pre-cut aperture have the advantage of being uncomplicated for both person and caregiver. Two-piece bags, where the flange can remain in situ for up to three days, helps protect the skin where frequent changes are necessary.”

Individual and professional caregivers also provide additional advice based on their experiences. Many staff who work in nursing homes put a plastic bag over the pouch so that in case of any leakage, there won’t be a much larger incident. Many persons with Alzheimer’s or other dementias either pick or rip off their pouches. To prevent this from happening, many caregivers dress their loved ones in special clothing that has no openings in the front but still gives the appearance of normal clothing. One source for this type of clothing is Buck and Buck. Their online catalogue features adaptive clothing by gender and condition. Lastly, in this smartphone age there is even an app that might help. 11 Health has created the Alfred Alert Sensor. The sensor is applied to the pouch at a point where it should be emptied. When that point is reached it connects by Bluetooth wireless technology to the Alfred Alert app on your smartphone to tell you it is time to empty. The app can also capture patient output volume over a period of time. The data is stored in a HIPAA compliant cloud server where it can be shared by medical professionals and family members.

In the final analysis, caring for a loved one with dementia is a joint effort between the person with dementia, their loved ones, their medical consultants and other professional caregivers.

Editor’s note: UOAA Affiliated Support Groups all around the United States are open to ostomy and continent diversion patients, caregivers, family, and friends.