Daily stoma management
If you are experiencing bladder or bowel problems it can cause you concern about how best to manage it, and if you subsequently need to have a stoma it can add another layer of anxiety, worrying how you will live your normal quality of life, while ensuring your personal care needs are fully met.
A stoma is a surgical opening on the front of your abdomen which allows the collection of urine or faeces outside of the body if you are unable to go to the toilet conventionally. While a stoma can take a little bit of getting used to, once you’ve adjusted there is no reason at all why you can’t enjoy life the way you always have.
With more than 30 years of experience providing exceptional bladder and bowel care for our customers, Helping Hands’ highly trained carers and nurses ensure that whether you need our support with your urostomy, ileostomy, or colostomy, we can help.
Our carers can come to you on either a visiting care or live-in care basis, meaning your stoma care is always our priority, and your personalised care package will continually put you at the very centre of your support.
Emptying and changing the stoma bag
Our carers are trained in aspects of more complex care to ensure that every element of your stoma care needs are covered. They will be trained in how to empty and change your stoma bag, ensuring a continuity of care from you doing things yourself.
Our bladder and bowel care management include supporting you with your medication, using specialist equipment such as Peristeen, to supporting with manual evacuation and digital stimulation. Our expert stoma care at home will ensure you continue with the routine you’ve always enjoyed, and don’t need to feel that your stoma is ruling your life.
Irrigating a stoma can be life-changing for some people as it means you may not need to wear a bag, which would be some people’s choice. However, it doesn’t suit everyone and it’s important that a trained stoma care nurse or another medical professional has supported you to make this decision.
Irrigation means flushing the stoma out with water to ensure that the contents of the bowel (or wherever the stoma is located) are emptied fully, but it’s important to do this at about the same time each day as part of a regular routine. Therefore, if maintaining a regular routine is difficult for you, irrigation may not be suitable.
Your carer will be specially trained on the equipment needed and other aspects of your stoma routine, meaning that if you are struggling to carry it out, perhaps due to lack of dexterity, they can undertake it for you.
It’s important to care for the skin around a stoma as otherwise it can become sore and inflamed. There are several reasons why skin around a stoma can become so sore, such as contact with urine/faeces, a reaction to adhesive used, or skin not being dried properly after washing.
Any concerns about the condition of the skin should always be communicated to the stoma nurse or other healthcare professional, however your carer can be an integral part of your stoma care team and ensure your skin is always properly cared for. They will raise the alarm if they have any concerns about what your stoma and the surrounding area looks like, accompanying you to the doctor if necessary or ensuring that it is seen by the stoma nurse.
Living with stoma
Living with a stoma doesn’t mean your life will have to change, and many Ostomates (someone who is living with an ostomy) continue to do the things they always have done with little compromise. Not everyone adapts as well as others though and because everyone is different it’s going to take some people longer than others to get used to it.
Because our carers are not trained to believe that ‘one size fits all’, we approach each customer in a person-centred manner that means their care is always tailored to their personal circumstances. While having a stoma may mean some adjustments are necessary, these can be discussed with your stoma nurse or surgeon and mean your life and daily routine continues as you wish it to.
Some of the circumstances that may need to be looked at more closely include:
Whether you prefer to be in the lap of luxury for your holidays or live off the beaten track, with some careful adjustments you should still be able to enjoy travelling with a stoma. If you love cruising or staying in luxury resorts you should find that you don’t have to make too many adjustments, as they tend to have all the facilities you would find at home, or perhaps even better!
It’s always important to have comprehensive travel insurance regardless of where you’re going, just in case you need medical assistance while you’re away. If you’re determined to go somewhere that facilities may be limited though it’s worth having a chat to your travel agent or tour operator to ensure that you won’t be left in an uncomfortable or unsanitary situation.
Our carers can also be taken with you when you travel if necessary, meaning that you get consistent support for the whole time that you’re away, just as if you were at home.
Employers have an obligation to make reasonable adjustments to their employees’ working environment so that they can carry out their role effectively. Consequently, if you are living with a stoma, you can expect your workplace to ensure you always have appropriate facilities to take care of it. You may not need any changes made for you and would rather attention wasn’t drawn to it, however you should be aware that you can ask for support if you require it.
Our carers can accompany every aspect of your daily life, such as work and study, so that you can carry on with everything you wish to do.
If you are required to take medication at a certain time each day to keep you in the best of health, it’s important you take it as directed. If this is becoming a problem because you are forgetting to do so or unwilling to do it yourself, it could compromise the health of your stoma and mean you are more vulnerable to infection or illness. Helping Hands carers are able to fully support the management of your medication, making sure you take it when you’re supposed to and finding solutions if you are not comfortable taking it.
Our carers are proactive at finding solutions, in collaboration with other healthcare professionals, so will encourage you to talk to your doctor or stoma nurse if necessary. They will then be instrumental in helping you to familiarise yourself with your new medication plan and ensure you understand how it needs to be administered.
If you’ve always been an active person and enjoy competitive sports or exercising for leisure, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t continue doing so once you’ve recovered from your surgery. Your stoma nurse or surgeon will advise you on what activities you can safely do and what changes you should look out for, however if they are happy with your progress they may just say you can exercise as you did previously.
Swimming may be something that people presume is no longer possible if you’re wearing a stoma bag, however according to Colostomy UK, that isn’t the case because “the adhesive on stoma bags remains effective in water.” You can also find supportive swimwear that means no-one will ever know you’re wearing a colostomy bag
Stoma care at home from trained nurses
At Helping Hands we’ve been providing nurse-led, private home care services for our stoma customers for more than 30 years, meaning that we’ve supported thousands of people to live well and as independently as possible with their stoma.
Our carers are equipped with all the skills they’ll need to ensure your stoma is managed properly, from the very first time we speak to you. You’ll be given an initial assessment that will ensure we have all the information necessary to effectively deliver your care, and we’ll ensure your carer works closely with your family and stoma nurse, if required.
Alongside your multi-disciplinary continence team, our carers will work under the supervision of our nurses to provide you with every aspect of your continence care, including:
- Incontinence aids
- Supra-pubic catheters
- Management of indwelling urethral catheters
- Colostomy, urostomy, ileostomy
- Mitrofanoff and Peristeen systems
- Pelvic floor exercises and bladder retraining
- Frequent toileting programmes
Stoma and pouch care nursing services
Our carers will be there for you on a visiting or live-in basis, to ensure the management of your stoma runs smoothly. Whether you need a little extra help or full support, we can deliver the high level of care you deserve, every single day.
Whether you utilise a one- or two-piece bag, that’s drainable or closed, your carers will have the necessary skills to understand how you need to be supported.
Stoma Care FAQs
Stoma care provided by the compassionate carers at Helping Hands means the effective management, cleaning, and maintenance of the stoma. This includes changing and emptying the bag, skin integrity of the stoma and surrounding area, and every other aspect of the person’s stoma needs.
A stoma bag works by being placed over the stoma, so that waste products are collected as they’re expelled. The bag collects urine or faeces, depending on the type of stoma, and can either be drainable via an opening at the bottom of the bag, or closed and removed as a whole unit when full.
Both drainable and closed styles are available as one- or two-piece bags; one-piece bags have an adhesive pad attached to them which sticks to the skin and is removed as a whole unit when the bag is full, whereas two-piece bags have the adhesive pad separately.
This adhesive pad (called a flange) can remain in place for a few days as two-piece bags are removed and replaced. The advantage of the two-piece system is that the skin remains undisturbed as bags are emptied and changed, reducing the risk of aggravated and sore skin.
A stoma is pinkish-red in colour, similar to the colour inside a person’s mouth. It’s normal for it to be red and isn’t a wound, however if the colour changes significantly or it becomes inflamed, a medical professional’s opinion should be sought. It may be swollen after surgery is first carried out and may take some time to reduce in size, and it should be carefully measured each time a new bag or flange is applied, to ensure a correct fit.
Yes, a bath or shower can be taken when wearing a stoma. It is someone’s personal choice whether they leave the bag on or take it off, as water cannot get into either the stoma or the bag. If the bag is removed though it’s a good idea to have the bath or shower at a time of day when the stoma is less active. If the stoma bag is left in place and there is a filter that lets gas escape it is a good idea to cover it with a sticky patch during a bath or shower, as the filter will become less effective if it gets wet.
A stoma itself shouldn’t smell, providing proper hygiene is practised. It’s understandable that someone with a stoma may be concerned that other people will be able to smell it but that’s not usually the case if the bag is emptied and changed when necessary. Most bags also have a deodoriser incorporated in them. However, if the stoma begins to show changes in appearance or odour the stoma nurse, or another healthcare professional, should be consulted for advice.
Stomach gas is produced by someone with a stoma, just the same as everybody else, but it’s important that it can escape the stoma bag effectively or a condition known as ‘ballooning’ can occur. This is when gas expelled from the stoma causes the bag to inflate, and if it isn’t released the bag can burst. Stoma bags usually have an escape filter on them that lets the gas escape, and its important that this filter is regularly checked for blockages or uncovered when a new bag is applied.
The role of a stoma nurse is specialised, and they will be qualified to look after and advise people living with a colostomy, ileostomy, or urostomy, pre- and post-surgery.
Your stoma may be looked after in your own home by you, your loved ones, or by specially trained carers. Helping Hands’ carers can visit multiple times daily or even live in your own home so that they can be on hand to manage your stoma care for you.
Our dedicated carers will undertake specialised instruction to ensure they are able to support your personal care effectively. You’ll be supported by someone who has excellent knowledge of stoma care and what it involves, so that you and your loved ones can be completely satisfied that you’re receiving the consistently high levels of care that you need.
Person-centered stoma care at home
Our local care teams across England and Wales will advise you on how best we can care for your needs, and branch managers will conduct a personalised assessment to make sure we understand exactly how you like things done.
All of our local care teams and every aspect of our services are fully regulated by the Care Quality Commission and Care Inspectorate Wales, so you are always assured excellent, person-centred care.