Living with an Ostomy

The reaction to intestinal or urinary diversion surgery varies from one person to an other.

For some it’s a problem, to other’s a challenge. To one person its life-saving and an improvement to there health to another it’s a devastating experience. Everybody will adapt / adjust in their own way and in their own time.

Everybody will go through four phases of recovery following surgery that results in loss of function of an important part of the body. Your family will also go through these phases, varying only in the time required for each phase.

Body Image/Self-Esteem.

Permanent changes in the body’s appearance and functional ability may change the way the person views their body image and self-esteem.

Fear of the loss is quite normal and facing any loss is difficult. What are you giving up by having this operation? Will there be an improvement in my health? How different will my life be? Such thoughts can lead to weeping, depression, or denial.

A ostomy in many cases may be accepted as the lesser of two evils, or in some cases a refusal to acknowledge its existence, is quit normal within the rehabilitation process there are times that you need the opportunity to express or deny your feelings, about the surgery, the changes to your body and self-image.

Self-Care Concerns.

You will need reassurance that you will be taught to care for and will be able to master the management processes. You should begin to assist your ostomy nurse with caring for the ostomy as soon as possible. Becoming involved in this process will begin to build your confidence and help to regain control of the situation.

Relationship Concerns.

You may fear that your social role may be changed and that others may not accept you as in the past. One of the first concerns is how to tell other people about your surgery, who to tell and when.

You should be prepared to explain your surgery with a few brief statements such as, “An ostomy is a surgical procedure for the diversion of bowel (or bladder).” And understand that you do not have to tell everyone about the surgery. Be selective about who and how much to tell.

Returning to your work place may present a concern about restroom facilities, interaction with co-workers, and feelings of being “watched.”

Employability and insurability are issues for some people. If these issues develop, seek help from healthcare professionals and/or talk with others who have found solutions to any of these issues.

Sexuality issues are common concerns for new ostomates. Linked closely to our feelings of sexuality is how we think about ourselves and our body image.

Any sexuality concerns should be discussed with your partner. It is likely that your partner will have anxieties due to a lack of information.

An intimate relationship is one in which it matters how well two people can communicate about the most personal of human functions, that is, bodily elimination and sex.

Ostomy surgery may present more concerns for single individuals. When to tell depends upon the relationships. Brief casual dates may not need to know. If the relationship grows and leads to intimacy, the partner needs to be told about the ostomy prior to a sexual experience.

You may experience the phases of adaptation in a different order and at varying rates. Some people may skip certain phases entirely and others may move up and down at different times.

These phases are shock, denial, acknowledgment and resolution.

  • Shock usually occurs immediately after surgery. You may be unable to process information and may be tearful, anxious and forgetful. This phase may last from days to weeks.
  • Denial may last for weeks or months and delays the adaptation process. During this phase, you will deny or minimize the significance of the event and defend yourself against the implications of the crisis.
  • Acknowledgment is the next step you begin to face the reality of the situation. As you give up your existing old structure, you may enter into a period, at least temporarily, of depression, of apathy, of agitation, of bitterness, and of high anxiety.
  • Resolution is the final phase the acute grief begins to subside and you start to cope with your situation in a constructive manner and begin to establish new structures, and develop a new sense of worth. This phase may take one to two years.

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