Aside from a new physiological condition, a patient’s self-perception and acceptance after ostomy surgery could be a psychological challenge as well.
For many ostomates, a lack of guidance in dealing with their new circumstances could give way to other medical and mental related problems such as depressive illnesses and social withdrawal.
The effect of this goes beyond the patient’s physical wellbeing and could impact all aspects of his or her life including the following:
- Social interactions.
- Psychological issues.
- Economic activities and professional growth.
- Family life.
Factors that can affect an ostomate’s self-acceptance
All patients are emotionally affected at having a different means of elimination. However individual circumstances play a major role in determining how a patient’s self-esteem will react to surgery.
Some of those circumstances include the following:
- Cause of the ostomy. The primary health condition is important. An incurable problem such as cancer can be more devastating than a traumatic one.
- Duration of the ostomy. Permanent ostomies are more likely to negatively impact on a patient than temporary ones.
- Social-economic status. An ostomate has an ongoing expenditure related to stoma care. People without adequate health care support or the financial means to meet these costs can end up leading a less dignified life. The financial standing can also be determining on whether patients meet their nutritional needs. This factor has a bearing on their overall health including mental wellbeing and self-acceptance.
- Age. Generally speaking, people of different ages face life from different perspectives. A young ostomate may be much more concerned about life with an ostomy regarding career goals, love and intimacy, as well as acceptance or rejection by peers and society. An elderly person might have similar concerns but the impact on their self-image and acceptance less.
- Ostomy related complications. If this occurs a patient is more likely to develop poor self-acceptance due to the added mental and physical stress. This further impact on the already discussed aspects of their life.
How to help ostomy patients increase self-acceptance
An ostomate’s self-acceptance is the first step in living successfully with an ostomy. Chances for this are increased by the way the patient is prepared before the surgery and the support given after the procedure.
The health care team should help the patient understand:
- Why the ostomy is necessary
- What the surgical procedure entails
- The expected appearance changes on their abdomen
- The expected duration of the ostomy
- Assess their general view on the surgery and prospects of having an ostomy for possibly the rest of their life and then helping them deal with those emotions.
This is a critical time when many patients can go into depression and denial. An ostomy nurse or other qualified medical professional can help improve ostomy patient’s self-acceptance by:
- Visiting the patient frequently and treating them with dignity
- Including emotional support as they offer stoma care training
- Helping the patient to accept that the stoma is now part of them and it is there to help them live a better life than they could have with the disease that necessitated the surgery. This can be done by motivating the patient to look and touch the stoma.
- Encouraging the patient to speak about their positive as well as negative feelings.
- Identifying the patient’s rate of acceptance and referring them to other qualified professionals for an integrated support approach.
- Informing the patient about ostomy accessories that can help them to confidently lead a more active and productive life.
- Helping the patient understand about nutritional measures that can help them to address issues with odor, flatulence and stomal discharge consistency.
These measures are in addition to helping the patient actively participate in the routine stoma management such as placing and emptying the pouch.