Older Person with Stoma

Receiving a stoma is a significant change for anyone and can drastically impact an older person’s overall quality of life. Patients must come to terms with their new body image and lifestyle changes. And successfully doing so rests mainly on the level of care they receive. Nurses and other healthcare professionals play a significant role in a stoma patient’s recovery through education or medical treatments. 

Unsurprisingly the process of helping an older patient come to terms with this change presents many challenges. Luckily, your older patient or family member has likely received care from an upstanding medical facility like HSHS St. John’s Hospital. Therefore, a crucial step in managing their quality of life has been handled. 

After all, the medical professionals throughout Springfield, Illinois, are among the best in the country. But there’s much more involved in managing a stoma and ensuring your older patient or family member’s quality of life doesn’t deteriorate.

Fortunately, the top-notch healthcare team at The Bridge Care Suites is no stranger to treating patients with stomas. Since we’re a short-term rehab clinic, we’re used to making quick and impactful changes that have lasting, positive effects. We also want to share our firsthand knowledge on managing the quality of life of older people with stomas–which is the subject of this blog:

What is a Stoma?

When there’s an opening on the abdomen, either connected to a patient’s digestive or urinary system to allow urine or feces to travel out of your body, it’s called a stoma. Appearance-wise, a stoma resembles a tiny, circular piece of pink-colored flesh. It’s sewn into a patient’s body, lying flat to one’s body or sticking outward.

People with stomas must wear a pouch that might have an opening at the bottom, or they might be closed. A stoma doesn’t have any nerve endings, causing patients no pain.Someone might require a stoma for any number of reasons. Typically, it’s due to the following circumstances:

  • Bowel cancer 
  • Bladder cancer 
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases (e.g., Crohn’s Disease)
  • Diverticulitis or a bladder/bowel obstruction

Stomas aren’t always permanent, but they can be. Whether someone has a stoma for the rest of their lives or it’s just a quick stint, they’ll need help managing their quality of life. Before moving forward, it’s worth mentioning a brief stay at The Bridge Care Suites is one of the best ways to ensure the best possible quality of life after receiving a stoma. 

Older person stoma 2

How Can You Help an Older Person’s Quality of Life When They Need a Stoma?

Before the operation, nurses or doctors must set aside time to talk to their older patients about life with a stoma. That means listening to any questions and providing the necessary reading materials (potentially to a primary caregiver).  

Beyond the questions, nurses need to listen to individual needs. In doing so, healthcare professionals can put in the work to explain why the stoma is a good thing. This will help with the older patient’s perception of this massive change to their body and prevent them from seeing it as a hindrance. 

At the end of the day, perception is everything. The patient receiving the stoma needs to be emotionally on board. If they think it’s going to make them a pariah or feel less-than, it will adversely impact their quality of life. Healthcare professionals need to reverse the stigma surrounding stomas. 

Hearing out older patients and acknowledging their quality of life concerns during the initial stages of the surgical pathway will put them on the right path. Furthermore, when nurses take the time to understand what a patient defines as a good quality of life, it puts everyone on the same page. It’s likelier to offset negative factors that might worsen the patient’s attitude and make them neglect the stoma. 

What Other Pre-Operative Efforts Will Help Patients Adjust to Life with a Stoma

It might be necessary to have frequent conversations/appointments leading up to the stoma procedure. But one idea that could go far in helping someone adjust to life with a stoma is a pre-surgery trial period. 

Many medical professionals will offer pre-stoma patients an artificial stoma and bags to get a feel for it. It’s possible to put water in it with a syringe so the patient (or their caregiver) can work on emptying the bag and familiarize themselves with wearing it under their clothes. Furthermore, medical professionals can show where everything will be positioned during the surgery. 

Helpful Tips for Life with a Stoma

Older people (and their potential caregivers) receiving stomas can improve their overall quality of life by following these suggestions after surgery:

Enjoying Daily Activities:

    • It’s possible to enjoy plenty of regular activities with a stoma, whether it’s a little bit of romance or exercise within reason.
    • Avoid sweating because it might loosen the tape holding the pouch in place–elders who enjoy more rigorous exercise might want a specialized bag.


    • The skin near the stoma should be clean and dry. 
    • Products that contain alcohol shouldn’t be applied as they dry out the skin. 
    • Avoid all skin products made with oil because the pouch won’t remain attached. 
    • Shave any hair on the skin near the stoma bag to help it stay in place.


    • Don’t consume beans, cabbage, onions, and spicy foods since they cause gas
    • Chew food well, so they have an easier time passing through the stoma and don’t cause cramping.
    • Avoid foods that cause diarrhea or constipation.
    • Always remain hydrated.

Staying Accident-Free:

    • Stoma bags should be emptied several times per day when they’re less than half full.
    • Always having supplies on hand will help in case of leaks or something similar. 
    • Avoid meals and fluid intake before an extended family outing or something similar. 


At The Bridge Care Suites, a brief stay in our short-term rehab facility in Springfield, Illinois, gives our stoma patients the support and empathy after surgery. Our guidance and high-end care will vastly improve their quality of life. Contact us today if you have any questions–we want to help in whatever way we can.