From Stillwater-Ponca City (OK) Ostomy Outlook January 1998:

Family & Spouse -- Their Needs

by Donna Hoffman, ET, Blue Water (NM); via South Brevard (FL) OSTOMY NEWSLETTER

Much has been said and written about the ostomate who has to undergo ostomy surgery, his recovery from the surgery and, what is so important -- his recovery emotionally. But what about the spouse and children? They must suffer in their own way. In the hospital, doctors and nurses hurry around seeing to the ostomate's physical needs, and the ostomy visitor sees to the emotional needs. Who is there for the family? Spouses suffer just as much, if not more. They are the ones who have put up with our outbursts of anger, despair, and depression. They work with us, giving love and support and have to go home to an empty house and wonder -- what next?

There is usually no one to help them through their anxious days of worry and uncertainty. "How will my loved one accept me? After all, I'm not the one to have an ostomy. Will he or she change or be the same?" After the ostomate comes home from the hospital the family and spouse have to put up with inconveniences such as pieces of skin barrier stuck to the bathroom floor, cements spilled on a favorite brush or comb, irrigation tubing hanging in the bathroom, learning to leave the bathroom free at that certain time of day, making extra pit stops when traveling. And on the spouse's end, "What about our sexual life? Will it be the same? Will it be worse, better, or maybe none at all?"

Spouses and families need the same support during the hospitalization phase and recovery at home as the ostomate. They need to be included in the teaching of ostomy care, to feel they are still wanted and needed. Children should have the surgery explained to them so Mom or Dad will seem the same and love them all the more. They will not think anything of it if explained in a simple and understanding way. Any ostomy is nothing to be ashamed of, and ostomates should not be treated differently from one who has to take insulin or wear a prosthesis. Spouses should also have the option to talk to another spouse who has had ostomy surgery in the family.

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Content last revised 1998-01-15