My grandma had her second colostomy in June of 2015. Her first colostomy (October 2013) was reversed (February 2014). By the time she had her second colostomy, she didn’t remember having the first one.
For a long time after she initially came home, she managed the colostomy on her own. The rehab facility worked with her to learn how to do it. They did not offer to teach me. At the time, I was already dealing with so much stepping into my new role, I didn’t think to ask, either.
So, she changed and emptied her bag and she ordered her supplies. The only thing I had to do with her colostomy was pick the supplies up at the Ostomy Care Center when she ran out. I didn’t see any reason to learn too much about her colostomy, so I kept my head buried in the sand.
For the most part, we did pretty well. I had my fair share of emergency biohazard cleanup calls in the middle of the night, but I never changed her bag myself for nearly three years.
As time went on, and I learned more about how to care for a colostomy (usually in response to something going wrong), it became obvious to me that she should not be responsible for taking care of her bag. I realized it was up to me to start keeping an eye on it if we were going to keep her healthy and feeling well.
I talked to the friendly folks at the Ostomy Care Center, and they gave me some printed information about it. He offered to walk me through it if I ever needed some help. I did some research and found Vegan Ostomy and saw how he changed his bag. Then, I asked her to show me how to change her bag and made a point of hanging around when she cared for it.
It was a good thing I did, too.
When she came home from her only hospitalization last year, she couldn’t remember how to change her bag. I could no longer put off doing it myself.
There was a sharp learning curve when I became the one entirely responsible for taking care of her colostomy. I quickly figured out that what she ate had a direct impact on what came out of her bag. I started enforcing a flexible menu to control her output. (I call it Ostomy Alchemy.)
We began changing her bag on a schedule, and it became part of our routine.
For a while, it felt like my whole life revolved around that bag.
Thankfully, we have done pretty well dealing with Grandma’s colostomy. She has only been to the hospital once, for a blockage, since.
I’ll be blunt. Considering the alternative (read: wiping butts)… I’d say that caring for someone who has a colostomy isn’t so bad. Having and getting used to a colostomy isn’t easy— neither for the person nor the people who may support them, but it is manageable. Just like anything else, having an ostomy can become the new normal. With enough information and practice, you can actually learn to live with an ostomy.
In the next few posts, I am going to share with you how I became the expert on Grandma’s colostomy.
- What Living with a Colostomy Means
- Securing Ostomy Supplies
- Getting the information you need to care for an ostomy
- Staying on your toes with a Colostomy
- Teaching other people how to care for an ostomy
- Ostomy Alchemy
- Preventing and Dealing with Ostomy Blockages
Have you had to care for a special medical need like an ostomy?
I’d love to hear how you learned to cope. Please share your experience in the comments!