Although statistics on the number of people with an ostomy are difficult to find, we do know more and more surgeries are being performed on people over the age of 75. In addition, many ostomates are living well into their 90’s. What challenges will aging ostomates face and how can we prepare for them?

As the body ages, stomas may change in both size and shape. Muscles which were firm may weaken, leading to a soft abdomen. Pouching systems that stayed in place for six days may begin leaking in just three. Minds that remembered everything now struggle to remember what we had for breakfast or whether we called-in that ostomy supply order.

Independence is treasured and asking for help is difficult. Fear of losing control is always present. These are valid concerns and as our bodies and minds age we need to start preparing for others to help us. Working on a plan will ease the fear of losing control. Finding resources may seem daunting or scary but know that your ET nurse is here for you every step of the way.

Recommendations from your ET Nurse:

• See your ET nurse every 6-12 months - discuss concerns, challenges and fears
• Involve your family  - share your concerns and your plan
• Identify all the people who help with your ostomy lifestyle - your ET nurse; family and friends; support groups; product suppliers
• Keep a written record of your ostomy supplies
• Write step by step instructions on how to change your pouching system - include what time of day and any quirks or habits you are particular to; make sure your family has two copies

Aging with an ostomy does not have to be a stressful process. Chat with your ET nurse to make your experience a manageable one.

By Lauren Wolfe, RN, BSN, CWOCN