October 20, 2015 — Blog Post
Acceptance: A Key to Transition in Ostomy Care
Care transitions typically refer to shifting care from one provider to another. But transitioning the patient from recipient to active owner of their care is another shift that needs to take place. Sometimes, patients need in-depth education, encouragement and support to do this.
Ostomy care and the patient mindset
An illuminating example is returning home after ostomy surgery. (An ostomy is a surgically created opening in the abdomen to allow stool to empty into a special pouch.) Although some people are accepting and ready for this surgery, many others go in with extreme reluctance. A few are convinced it’s practically a fate worse than death. Others still have an ostomy created under emergency conditions, or with very little time to emotionally adjust.
You can imagine the implications:
- Major surgery (pain medications, incisions, and so on)
- Real or imagined stigma (can we think of a more taboo topic than handling one’s own poop?)
- Body image issues (clothing, odors, sounds, relationships, sex life)
- Anxiety about return to normalcy (being in public, returning to work, exercise, hobbies)
The challenge for healthcare providers
Healthcare providers have to not only help patients learn an entirely new set of practical skills, but overcome emotional hurdles as well. And with something like changing an ostomy pouch, expertise isn’t achieved quickly. It requires practice, trial and error, and a healthy dose of persistence.
In an ideal world, specialized ostomy nurses are on hand in the hospital and after discharge to help. Of course, this isn’t always available. Even when it is, education may take place when the patient is overwhelmed, fatigued, in denial, or in a heavy fog from pain medications. Improving the patient’s health literacy on this topic can be difficult.
Acceptance on your own terms
To adjust to such a major life change, it’s helpful for patients to receive education and support at their own pace, in real-time, with familiar language, and in the calm environment of their own home. While in-person attention might be the ultimate experience, technology holds great potential here as well. This is the type of support the Emmi® ostomy programs aim to provide.
Imagine video instruction that can be played on a mobile device as a patient practices in her bathroom. Reassurance of what’s normal in a time when you feel anything but. Clear explanations of when to call your nurse. Detailed tips for avoiding leaks and odors. Anticipating questions many people are too shy to ask, and normalizing the process of asking.
Also imagine gentle encouragement – when you’re ready to absorb it – that yes, you will get back to your old self. Hobbies can resume, your sex life will return, and no, no one will be able to tell you have a pouch on.
This type of guidance helps patients feel more confident in assuming ownership of their care. It speaks to them in a friendly yet calm voice, empathic tone, and with plain language. Patients can engage with the technology on their own terms, feel more empowered to ask questions, and move towards greater acceptance of this major life change.
What other advice can you share with our readers? Have you seen examples of technology facilitating a difficult transition?