Ostomy is a surgically created opening through which stool or urine exit the body. A person may be required to have an ostomy bag. Emptying this bag is a fairly simple process but can also be overwhelming. If the person you’re caring for has an ostomy bag, you may need to empty and change it. You might feel like caring for an ostomy bag is something you’re not able to do or you might be worried about hurting them. In this video, we’ll guide you through the steps to remove the mystery and make you feel more confident helping with ostomy care.
If the person you’re caring for has an ostomy bag, you may need to empty and change it.
You might feel like caring for an ostomy bag is something you’re not able to do or you might be worried about hurting them. In this video, we’ll guide you through the steps to remove the mystery and make you feel more confident helping with ostomy care.
Let’s try it!
Let’s review the main parts of the ostomy bag before we get started.
The part that sticks to their body is called the flange, it looks something like this.
The flange fits tightly against their skin and around the opening, called a stoma, to prevent leaks and keep their skin clean.
Next, you have the pouch, it’s the bag that catches the waste.
Some types of bags are one piece, where the bag is connected to the flange and some are two-piece and the bag can separate from the flange.
Lastly, there will be a way to close the bag. Sometimes there’s a clip, sometimes it’s Velcro. It depends on the brand.
There are so many types of bags to choose from, but the good news is that the hospital or local community government agency will set up visits with a nurse that specializes in ostomy care. That nurse will figure out the best products to use and show you how to use the products they choose.
There are two things to know about an ostomy:
1. How to empty the bag and
2. How to change the bag
Let’s start with learning how to empty the bag. For this, we’ll need a container to empty the waste into, a waterproof pad, towel or plastic bag to protect their bed from spills, a damp washcloth to wipe up the end of their bag and a pair of disposable gloves.
Have the person you’re caring for lying in bed to work with their ostomy. Lying down helps flatten out their stomach and makes it easier for you to catch spills.
First, wash your hands and put on some gloves.
Start by putting a waterproof pad under their side closest to the ostomy to catch any spills. A plastic bag or a towel works just as well.
Next, put the container under the opening of the bag and carefully open the end of the bag.
Allow the contents to flow into the container, you may need to push on the bag to empty it totally.
Once the bag is empty, take the damp washcloth and wipe the open end of the bag so that there is no waste on the edge; now you can close it.
Finish up by emptying the container into the toilet. It’s best to wash out the container with soap and water after every use.
Sometimes there may just be gas in the bag. In this case, open the bag and let the gas flow out then close it again. Doing this regularly will help prevent the bag from opening up on its own from the pressure.
Step number two is changing the bag.
You’ll need some gloves, a fresh bag with a flange and any other skin products that they use.
It may be good to have something to protect the bed, like a waterproof pad, towel or plastic bag and you’ll need a bowl of warm water, some gentle soap and disposable gauze pads, and a clean ostomy belt if they use one.
In order to apply the flange part of the bag to their skin, you may have to cut it to fit the size and shape of their stoma opening.
The specialty nurse will usually measure the opening and sometimes will even trace the shape to cut out on a piece of paper to keep with the supplies. It’s best to get this ready first to make the bag change smoother if you have to cut it.
Once that’s all ready, start by washing your hands and putting on gloves.
With the person you’re caring for lying in bed, empty the bag like we did before then carefully remove the old products from their skin.
Hold their skin-tight while you lift off the sticky part of the bag to prevent any skin tears.
Throw out the old bag and flange, but keep the clip if they’re using one.
Wet the gauze and wash around the stoma opening in a circular motion with some warm water with soap and rinse with plain water. Gently pat the area dry with clean gauze.
If you notice any bleeding or rashes, report this to their health care provider.
Apply any skin protectants they may use, like special stoma powder, skin prep or paste.
Carefully fit the flange part of the bag over the opening and attach the bag if it’s separate. Firmly but gently press down on the adhesive. It’s best to hold pressure for 2-3 minutes because the pressure and the heat from your hands will make it stick better.
Now that the new bag is attached, you can help them put on an ostomy belt if they wear one.
Adjust any clothing that may need to be put back and you’re all done!
Having and changing an ostomy bag can take some getting used to, but with practice and patience, it will become part of your regular routine in no time!
For more caregiver support and resources, be sure to visit our CareChannel.