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Colostomy – Diseases of the colon are on the rise
The chances of undergoing an operative procedure increases, as the population ages. Diseases of the colon are on the rise and affect our elderly loved ones the most. A colostomy is when the lower bowel has damage and we need to keep the stool out of the colon. In many cases, the stool is directly diverted away from the bowel. And this is when temporary colostomy happens. In more severe cases, such as colon cancer, when a part of the colon needs removal. A permanent colostomy proves to be the best option.
What is a colostomy?
A colostomy is basically a surgical procedure involving the large intestine and the abdomen. They make an incision in the abdomen to divert one end of the colon. The opening that is in the stomach to divert the colon, is a stoma. The stoma would appear moist and red after the surgery. It would also appear to be pretty swollen; however, its size would reduce within 6–8 weeks after the surgery. As days and weeks pass by, you would not feel any pain or sensation in your stoma.
Over this stoma, a small bag or pouch is, for the collection of stool and gas. This happens when the diseased part of the colon has been removed. And redirected through an opening in the stomach. As a result, the natural function of bowel emptying. Cannot happen through the usual route and requires a different path for the feces to leave the body.
Why do we need a colostomy?
The requirement of a colostomy happens under the following circumstances:
- Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease
- Cancer of the colon
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- A blockage or injury to the colon
- Ulcerative colitis
- Fecal incontinence
Living with colostomy
The colostomy is usually a common occurrence among the aging population. Especially, if they are suffering from the disease of the colon. With age, the risk of undergoing such operative risk increases. And puts our loved one at risk of several complications. A research published in the Journal of Archives of Surgery. States that elderly patients have short positive outcomes in their state of mind profile and mortality. After undergoing a colostomy. Furthermore, elderly patients are four times more likely to suffer from chronic conditions. Such as chronic pulmonary obstructive disease and diabetes. Which also significantly affects their quality of life. In view of this, it becomes necessary to develop supportive strategies. Keeping in mind the associated complications our elderly are at risk of.
With age, the challenge of keeping up with a stoma becomes difficult. And there are many practical problems, that our elderly have to face.
Some of the problems include:
- Changes in the texture of the skin. Such as the appearance of wrinkles and skin sagging. This can all become problematic for keeping up with a stoma.
- Arthritis can cause the reduction in ability to perform things.
- Memory loss
- Changes in weight can cause the size of the stoma to also change.
- Chronic illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease
Helpful nutrition tips for elderly with a colostomy
Nutrition becomes an extremely important component after a colostomy surgery. The fact that the normal bowel movements cannot occur through the rectum and anus. It becomes extremely important to take care of the nutritional demands of an elderly patient with a colostomy.
Helpful hints regarding the dietary intake:
- A balanced diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables is indispensable. A well-balanced diet should prevent any problems related to bowel movements
- Staying well hydrated is absolutely necessary. And therefore ask your elderly to drink at least 6 – 8 glasses of water.
- Encourage your elderly to chew their food thoroughly before swallowing.
- You can also consider giving your elderly buttermilk or yogurt. This not only helps in reducing gas formation but also improves gut health.
- If gas is still a problem, then you can consider sprinkling some Beano powder in the first bite. This particular powder has no flavor and elderly can easily consume it.
- There are many foods that can increase the gas formation and you would really want to avoid them. These include raw onions, broccoli, asparagus, garlic, cabbage, and fish. These foods can also produce an unpleasant odor. Even though the colostomy pouch is odor proof, you may get a strong odor while emptying it. In such case, you would want to avoid these foods.
Tips for caring for elderly with a colostomy
The following tips may come handy for caregivers. While they help their elderly change their colostomy bag/pouch. It is this bag, where the feces will get collected after the surgery. One important rule of thumb, that caregivers need to take note of is that they need to empty the pouch in the morning. Before their elderly drink or eat anything. The stoma can function anytime; however, it functions the most when a person eats or drinks.
Tips for appropriate colostomy care:
- While applying the pouch, the skin should be wrinkle-free. Failure to do so will cause the pouch to loosen and the seal to break, whenever the skin stretches.
- Whenever you are changing your pouch, remember to put a date on it. This will help you remember the last date you changed your pouch.
- 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. Don’t wait for the pouch to fill up completely, as it will cause problems while emptying it. 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:
- You can also consider applying non–stick cooking oil such as Palm spray inside the pouch. This will not allow the stool to stick inside the pouch and enable faster and hassle-free cleaning.
- Your elderly can bathe with or without the pouch. However, one must remember that the stoma will be working during this time.
- The materials that are for washing the stoma, need to be clean enough to prevent any dirt from irritating it.
- Try and cover a part of the pouch inside the underwear. This will provide better support.
- Humid or hot weather conditions would require your elderly to wear a cover over the pouch. This is to prevent perspiration from irritating the skin lining.
- The pouch that is available is usually odor proof. They come with an inbuilt carbon filter, that is to filter off the gas and thereby prevent a buildup of odor. However, if odor seems to bother your elderly. You can then consider using deodorants that can be inside the pouch.
Complications of a colostomy
Any form of surgical procedure has its one set of risks. And complications and this holds true for colostomy as well. Elderly who undergo a colostomy are at a risk of the following conditions:
- Damage to organs
- A Parastomal hernia may develop
- The wound can break open
- Blockage of the stoma
- Prolapse of the colostomy
- Internal bleeding
- Rectal discharge – this happens when the anus and rectum are intact. And there is mucus discharge from the bottom
A colostomy is a life-saving procedure. And cannot be avoided, regardless of the age of the individual. Keeping in mind the age, physical and psychological condition of our elderly. It becomes necessary to help them sail through this journey comfortably. Also, for more information, check out this post on Thick-It. For additional help with your caregiving problems, please contact me so that I can help you.