Regardless of a temporary or permanent ostomy, we must not forget the burden that it carries after surgery. What happens when you are only left with your own thoughts after a life-changing event? What can be done to prevent the colossal impact when faced with challenges never met before?
After leaving the hospital, many ostomy patients come home to a new life and a fresh start. However, many of them are met with a bumpy and troubled road at first. Navigating through major changes such as body image perception and adjusting to new diet routines can be an overwhelming challenge for patients with a stoma. It might feel like learning how to walk all over again. Therefore, it is pivotal to highlight the importance of presurgical and postsurgical education for patients.
According to the review paper “A literature review about self-care on ostomy patients and their caregivers”, posted on the International Journal of Urological Nursing, “(…) the number of people currently living with an ostomy in the world is about of 2 000 000; 650.000 of them are settled in Europe” and “(…) regardless of the specific diagnosis that may have led to the creation of an ostomy, these patients all share similar consequences (…)”.
These similar consequences can simply begin at adjusting to new eating habits and go as far as changing clothing, traveling, physical activity, social activities and employment status. Patients have to go through daily maintenance of the stoma and, on top of all that, deal with the associated alterations to the physique and emotional, cognitive and social functions. Patients who undergo an ostomy must be taken into special consideration due to the fact that it requires long-term adjustments at the physical, emotional and social levels.
So, what can patients do to prevent such a hard fall and how can we possibly play a part in the healing and recovery process? Studies show that patients who have pre-surgery educational tools that equip them with useful and adequate information about handling and managing their stoma have better post-surgery levels of adjustment than the patients who lack that same support. Anticipating the struggles and obstacles ahead does not make them vanish, but surely paints the picture for patients and allows them to process and prepare for the future.
Healthcare professionals and caregivers come in handy in the picture and might just be holding the painting brush in their hands. Healthcare professionals are able to identify what areas of self-care abilities patients might be lacking and provide them with educational insights so as to live with an ostomy. Nursing management after surgery is based on tailored care for patients in order to regain quality of life and facilitate a smoother transition back to life as they knew it. Even if partially, a sense of normality is pivotal in a patient’s quest to stay motivated. Thus, it is crucial for valid and useful self-care assessment tools to be given to healthcare professionals in order to recognize patients’ needs and guide them to better and more efficient self-care routines.
Family, friends and other informal caregivers play an important role as well. As patients adjust to new physical challenges in their daily habits, the psychological adjustment picks up pace when patients and those who make up for their social surroundings learn to adapt to the new reality. Since adjustment can be interpreted as how a patient reacts to the physical and psychological impacts caused by an ostomy, the support from those around seems undeniably significant.
All throughout this journey, it is imperative that the patient has the steering wheel. Feeling in control of their daily self-management and self-monitoring empowers them to take care of themselves and feel more in charge of their own bodies and minds. Understanding how to technically manage the stoma and be an active participant in their treatments and having the ability to monitor their bodies and be vigilant. Needless to say, these achievements don’t come out of the blue to patients and their
caregivers and they must be guided and provided with efficient and long-lasting educational supplies from healthcare professionals.
When ostomized, high self-care levels mean better health outcomes. For that statement to become a reality, healthcare practitioners could potentially change the course of action by identifying where patients struggle which, consequently, allows patients to climb up the ladder and have better health outcomes – and we quote ““(…) documented associations between self-care behaviors and patients’ outcomes could contribute to develop effective health policies and clinical services’ organization for chronic illness care”. Working collectively and the constant exchange of experience and knowledge between patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals paves the way for future patients who might enter that initial bumpy and troubled road. The first step is always the hardest, but the road waits for your steady and firm walk.