Building a Support Network

How to Talk to Your Loved Ones About Your Ostomy

The road to recovery after an ostomy is not just physical – it is emotional, psychological, and for many people, spiritual as well. You may find that your life after surgery changes in profound and unexpected ways. As such, it can bring with it a complicated number of emotions that can be difficult to come to terms with, much less speak about with someone else. But learning how to talk to your loved ones about your ostomy is as much a part of the healing process as learning to care for your stoma.

For those lucky enough to have friends, family, and other loved ones who are part of their larger support network, it is important to remember that they want you to share your feelings with them. That said, even those closest to us don’t always say and do what we want them to, so managing your expectations is key.

Speaking with your loved ones about your ostomy can be an especially difficult process as it requires you to have great emotional strength at a time in your life where you might be feeling very low or vulnerable. You may find that some of your loved ones react in ways you feel are inappropriate or insensitive. Much like the person who makes an inappropriate comment at an inopportune moment out of awkwardness, our emotions can manifest themselves in a variety of ways that don’t always make sense to those around us. Try to remember this if your loved ones don’t react as you hope and be patient with yourself and others.

While it’s true that not everyone has the life skills or emotional maturity to deal successfully with such a profound life change, it doesn’t mean they’re not trying in their own way or that they don’t want to. You will probably find that the more you open up to your loved ones about your ostomy and the effects it has had on you, the more your loved ones will feel comfortable speaking about it too.

Where to Find a Support Group

The most obvious place to begin looking for a support group these days is online. Though first it’s wise to ask your doctor, nurse or other health-care provider for recommendations. It’s quite likely that they have or have had patients in the same situation and can help to guide you towards some local support groups. If this isn’t successful, you can search to see if your country or city has an ostomy association that can provide a good recommendation for a local support chapter.

For example, the United Ostomy Associations of America have a support group finder with approximately 300 affiliated ostomy support groups that you can search. If you have mobility issues, are still physically recovering from surgery, or you simply don’t want to attend an in-person support group, Inspire is an online support forum for patients and caregivers with ostomies. This online support group and discussion community provides a safe place for people to talk, ask questions, and read about topics that range from traveling with an ostomy to managing gas and odour.

If you have any trouble finding a local support group that meets your needs, here is a list of resources to help get you started:

Ostomy Support Services

Just as you must care for your emotional well being once you’ve had an ostomy, you must also learn to care for your body in new ways. A crucial component to a successful support network includes health-care providers experienced in dealing with ostomy care. The better equipped your health-care providers are, the more knowledge, tips and tools they can pass along to you as well.

If you have any trouble finding local ostomy support services that meet your needs, here is a list of resources to help get you started:

It’s Never Too Late

Maybe you have recently been discharged from the hospital, or perhaps you have already been living with an ostomy for months or even years; whatever your situation, it’s never too late to build a support network.

For more information on how to care for your ostomy, visit our other resource pages. Or browse our catalogue of premium-grade medical supplies, ostomy care products and accessories.

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