"Ask a Nurse" - Cancer/Colostomy Concern

Question: Dear Nurse, My father had a colostomy to treat his newly diagnosed colon cancer. We were told that "since this is not a curable situation, he may only have six or seven months". My mother is not capable of dealing with the mechanics of the colostomy nor can she assist with his personal care because of her own health problems. Both my parents agree that he should remain at home and avoid readmission to hospital or any healthcare institution, whatever the circumstances. They are fiercely independent and find it difficult to accept help even from my siblings and I. How can we best support them and ensure their safety?
- Sheila

Answer: Dear Sheila, A colostomy can be a source of embarrassment for your father, and an alteration of his body image and self-confidence. He may feel reluctant to allow your mother to provide the personal care that he needs to keep his colostomy clean and intact. Your mother is justified in feeling apprehensive and may be worried that she will do something wrong or otherwise make your father feel uncomfortable. Before your father leaves the hospital, it is wise to plan ahead. Seeing the colostomy nurse specialist in the hospital is usually very helpful in addressing the questions and issues your parents likely have. A good discharge planner will help set up what is available from the government to help your parents once they are home. This will no doubt alleviate some of the stress. Qualicare can also provide in home colostomy care, all the supplies that are needed, and will educate your parents on your father’s nutritional needs, restrictions and smart food choices. As this may be a very emotional time for everyone concerned; your parents could take advantage of the various support groups in their community and, if necessary, private counseling. Many organizations also provide the services of a visiting volunteer to help your parents cope. Qualicare can arrange all of these services on your father’s behalf. For his palliative situation, there are many emotions and challenges to face, when dealing with a terminal illness. It is often overwhelming and families may feel a loss of control and enormous grief. There are many palliative care options available, however, those that include hospice, hospital or home care, it is always best to discuss these options with the client’s best interests at heart. Navigating the health care system to arrange for seamless care is paramount, and should include superior pain management, equipment and supplies that may be needed, emotional support and co-ordination of professional appointments and treatments. Nursing and other professional care can be arranged 24 hours a day. Qualicare can provide all of these services, so that the family can concentrate on sharing the precious remaining time with their loved one.
-Barbara RN - Qualicare

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