How To Effectively Care For A Colostomy For An Aging Loved One


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What is a colostomy?

A colostomy is a surgical procedure in which an opening (called a stoma) is created in the abdomen. A part of the colon (large intestine) is brought to the skin’s surface to allow waste to exit the body. This can be necessary when a blockage or other problem prevents debris from leaving the body through the anus. The colostomy allows stool to be diverted through the stoma and into a bag or pouch attached to the skin. The location of the stoma on the abdomen can vary depending on the reason for the colostomy and the type of procedure used. A colostomy may be temporary or permanent and can significantly impact a person’s daily life, including their diet, activities, and self-image.

Colostomy – Diseases of the colon are on the rise

Yes, it is true that diseases of the colon, including colon cancer, are on the rise in the aging population. As people age, the risk of developing colon cancer increases, with most cases occurring in people over 50. In addition to age, other factors that can increase the risk of colon cancer include a family history of the disease, a personal account of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a diet high in red and processed meats, and a sedentary lifestyle.

It is essential to be aware of the symptoms of colon cancer, which can include changes in bowel habits, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, and unexplained weight loss. If you experience any of these symptoms, seeing a healthcare professional for evaluation is essential.

Screening for colon cancer is also important, particularly for those over 50 or those with risk factors. Screening methods can include colonoscopy, fecal occult blood testing (FOBT), and stool DNA testing. Early detection of colon cancer can significantly improve the chances of successful treatment and cure.



Why do we need a colostomy?

A colostomy may be necessary for a variety of reasons, including:

  1. cancer: Colostomy may be required in colon or rectal cancer cases, where a portion of the colon or rectum is removed, and the remaining bowel is brought to the skin’s surface to allow waste to exit the body through a stoma.
  2. Inflammatory bowel disease: In some cases of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, a colostomy may be necessary if the condition severely damages the colon and rectum.
  3. Diverticulitis is when small pouches or sacs in the colon become inflamed or infected. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the damaged portion of the colon, and a colostomy may be needed temporarily or permanently.
  4. Congenital disabilities: In some cases, infants may be born with genetic disabilities that affect the colon or rectum. A colostomy may be necessary to allow waste to exit the body.
  5. Trauma or injury: In cases of severe trauma or damage to the colon or rectum, a colostomy may be necessary to allow the area to heal.

A colostomy is a surgical procedure that can help individuals experiencing problems with their colon or rectum, allowing them to live more comfortably and improve their quality of life.

Living with colostomy

Living with a colostomy can be challenging initially, but with time and practice, many people can adjust to their new lifestyle. Here are some tips for living with a colostomy:

  1. Education: It is essential to understand how to care for the stoma and how to change the ostomy bag. A healthcare professional, such as a wound care nurse or an ostomy nurse, can provide education and support.
  2. Diet: It is essential to follow a healthy and balanced diet, including plenty of fluids, fiber-rich foods, and avoiding foods that may cause gas or odor. A dietitian can guide nutrition and help with meal planning.
  3. Clothing: Choose comfortable clothing that provides easy access to the ostomy bag, such as loose-fitting pants or skirts with an elastic waistband. Also, specially designed undergarments and clothing are available for people with a colostomy.
  4. Exercise: Physical activity can help maintain overall health and well-being. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any exercise program.
  5. Support: Joining a support group or speaking with others with a colostomy can help them cope with the emotional and practical challenges of living with a colostomy.

Living with a colostomy requires some adjustments, but many people can resume their normal activities and live entire and active lives. With the proper care and support, managing a colostomy and maintaining good health and well-being is possible.

Some of the problems include the following:

Living with a colostomy can present some challenges, including the following problems:

  1. Skin irritation: The skin around the stoma may become irritated due to contact with stool or the adhesive on the ostomy bag. Proper cleaning and using skin barriers and protective creams can help prevent skin irritation.
  2. Leakage: The ostomy bag may leak if not properly sealed or become too full. Regular emptying and changing of the ostomy bag can help prevent leakage.
  3. Odor: The stool odor can be a concern for some people with a colostomy. Using an ostomy deodorant, changing the ostomy bag regularly, and avoiding certain foods can help minimize odor.
  4. Blockages: The stoma may be blocked due to a stool or other material buildup. Signs of a backup may include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and no output from the stoma. A healthcare professional should be consulted immediately if a blockage is suspected.
  5. Psychological and emotional issues: Living with a colostomy can be an emotional and psychological challenge. Some people may experience feelings of anxiety, depression, or social isolation. Support groups, counseling, and other resources can help individuals cope with these issues.

Proper care and management can minimize or avoid many of these problems. In addition, healthcare professionals can provide education and support to help individuals with colostomy manage these challenges and maintain good health and quality of life.

Helpful nutrition tips for the elderly with a colostomy

Here are some helpful nutrition tips for our aging population with a colostomy:

  1. Stay hydrated: Drinking fluids, especially water, prevents dehydration. Aim for at least 8 cups of fluids per day, or more, if a healthcare professional recommends.
  2. Eat a balanced diet: A balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products can help maintain overall health and well-being.
  3. Monitor fiber intake: Fiber can help prevent constipation and promote bowel regularity, but too much fiber can cause bloating and gas. Therefore, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate level of fiber intake for an individual’s specific needs.
  4. Avoid trigger foods: Certain foods may cause gas, odor, or other digestive issues. Keeping a food diary can help identify trigger foods and avoid them in the future.
  5. Take vitamin and mineral supplements: A colostomy may affect the absorption of specific vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12 and calcium. A healthcare professional can recommend appropriate supplements to ensure proper nutrient intake.
  6. Chew food well: Chewing food well can help with digestion and prevent blockages in the stoma.
  7. Eat smaller, more frequent meals: Smaller meals can help prevent overeating and aid digestion.
  8. Consider working with a registered dietitian: A registered dietitian can provide individualized nutrition guidance and help develop a meal plan that meets an individual’s needs and preferences.

Overall, a balanced and varied diet, combined with proper hydration and monitoring of trigger foods, can help individuals with a colostomy maintain good nutrition and overall health.

Helpful hints regarding dietary intake:

Here are some helpful tips regarding dietary intake for colostomy:

  1. Increase fluid intake: Staying hydrated is essential for anyone with a colostomy. Drinking plenty of water and other fluids, such as clear broths, herbal tea, and coconut water, can help prevent dehydration.
  2. Add fiber gradually: Fiber is essential for maintaining bowel regularity, but it is necessary to add it gradually to avoid gas, bloating, and diarrhea. Foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are good sources of fiber.
  3. Avoid gas-producing foods: Certain foods, such as beans, broccoli, cabbage, and onions, can produce gas and cause discomfort. Avoiding these foods or eating them in small amounts may help reduce gas.
  4. Monitor output: Pay attention to the consistency and frequency of stool output. Certain foods, such as applesauce, bananas, and white rice, can thicken stool, while others, such as prune juice and dried fruits, can loosen it. A healthcare professional or registered dietitian can guide managing stool consistency.
  5. Consider a low-residue diet: A low-residue diet limits the amount of fiber and other indigestible materials in the diet, which can be helpful for individuals with a colostomy who have certain medical conditions or are experiencing digestive issues. This diet typically includes well-cooked vegetables, white rice, white bread, and lean protein sources.
  6. Take small bites and chew well: Taking small bites and chewing food well can help prevent blockages in the stoma.
  7. Discuss supplements with a healthcare professional: Certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12 and calcium, may be affected by a colostomy. A healthcare professional can recommend appropriate supplements to ensure proper nutrient intake.

Working with a healthcare professional, such as a registered dietitian or gastroenterologist, is essential to determine an individualized dietary plan that meets an individual’s needs and preferences.

Tips for caring for the elderly with a colostomy

Here are some suggestions for caring for the aging population with a colostomy:

  1. Encourage self-care: Encourage the individual to participate in their care as much as possible. This can help promote independence and a sense of control over their situation.
  2. Provide education: Provide education on colostomy care and management, including how to change the ostomy bag, clean the stoma, and manage potential complications.
  3. Assist with daily living activities: Assist with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and grooming, as needed.
  4. Ensure proper nutrition and hydration: The individual eats a balanced diet and drinks plenty of fluids. Consult with a registered dietitian to develop an appropriate dietary plan.
  5. Monitor for skin irritation: Monitor the skin around the stoma for signs of anger, such as redness or swelling. Use skin barriers and protective creams as needed to prevent skin irritation.
  6. Assist with mobility: Assist with mobility, such as helping the individual get in and out of bed or providing mobility aids as needed.
  7. Monitor for complications: Monitor for complications, such as blockages or infections, and seek medical attention if necessary.
  8. Provide emotional support: Living with a colostomy can be emotionally challenging. Provide emotional support and encourage the individual to seek support groups or counseling if needed.
  9. Ensure regular follow-up care: The individual receives regular follow-up care with a healthcare professional, such as a gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeon.

By providing comprehensive care and support, individuals with a colostomy can maintain good health and quality of life.

Tips for appropriate colostomy care:

  • While applying the pouch, the skin should be wrinkle-free. Failure to do so will cause the bag to loosen and the seal to break whenever the skin stretches.
  • Remember to put a date on your pouch whenever you change it. This will help you remember the last date you changed your bag.
  • The area should be clean and dry. Trim off hairs if there are any.
  • Always remember to wear the pouch in front of the mirror. This will allow you to wear it properly.
  • Clean and empty your pouch when it is one-third full. Please don’t wait for the bag to fill; opening it will cause problems. Moreover, the risk of leakage and odor will also increase.
  • After emptying the pouch, you can clean it using Dreft soap and water. This will not only freshen up the bag but also lubricate it.

More tips for appropriate colostomy care:

Appropriate colostomy care is essential to ensure proper hygiene, prevent complications, and maintain skin health. The stoma and surrounding skin should be cleaned regularly with mild soap and water, and a skin barrier should be applied to protect the skin. The ostomy bag should be emptied periodically and changed every three to seven days or as needed. The individual should monitor their stoma for size, shape, or color changes and report any abnormalities to their healthcare provider. Following a proper diet and drinking fluids is essential to prevent dehydration and maintain regular bowel movements. By following these guidelines and seeking regular follow-up care, individuals with a colostomy can live healthy and active life.

What are the complications of a colostomy?

While a colostomy can be life-saving, there are potential complications associated with the procedure. Some possible complications of a colostomy include:

  1. Stomal prolapse: In some cases, the stoma may become elongated or protrude from the skin, causing discomfort and making it difficult to fit the ostomy bag securely.
  2. Stomal retraction: The stoma may also retract, or sink below the skin’s surface, making it difficult to attach the ostomy bag.
  3. Skin irritation: The skin around the stoma may become irritated due to prolonged contact with stool or urine, causing redness, itching, or inflammation.
  4. Blockage: A blockage in the stoma or intestine can occur, usually due to improper dietary habits, causing abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.
  5. Infection: Infection at the site of the stoma can occur, usually due to poor hygiene practices or skin irritation.
  6. Hernia: A hernia can develop around the stoma site due to the pressure of the intestine pushing through the abdominal wall.
  7. Dehydration: Dehydration can occur if an individual with a colostomy does not consume enough fluids or experiences excessive fluid loss.

It is essential to seek medical attention if any of these complications arise or if an individual experiences other concerning symptoms. However, these complications can be prevented or effectively treated with proper care and management.




Caring for an aging loved one with a colostomy can be challenging, but proper education and support can be a manageable and rewarding experience. Encouraging self-care, providing assistance with daily living activities, ensuring adequate nutrition and hydration, and monitoring for complications are all crucial aspects of care. Providing emotional support and promoting independence and control over the individual’s situation is also essential. By following these guidelines and seeking regular follow-up care, individuals with a colostomy can maintain good health and quality of life. In addition, caregivers can help their loved ones thrive and lead fulfilling lives with patience, compassion, and dedication.

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