The OT’s Perspective: Breaking Taboos
How can you help your clients live independently & confidently with stoma and catheter bags…
Back in July last year, I wrote about helping your clients to dress in a way that allows them to live independently and have a sense of identity.
The main focus was on dementia patients, and today I want to tackle a slightly different angle – clothing that can help people with challenging conditions, particularly related to bowel-related issues.
Stoma and catheter bags – No longer taboo?
Clearly, bodily functions are pretty sensitive topics and can cause embarrassment, and as a consequence, for many years, stoma and catheter bags have been taboo topics.
Thankfully, that’s changing, which means we can talk it through!
Here are a few things to consider:
- Let’s start with the obvious: most people don’t want their stoma and catheter bag to be obvious
- However, the bags clearly need to be easily accessible, and able to expand as they fill
- Any clothing that goes with either bag needs to consider bulging as the bag fills, as well as ensuring that the drainage tube is not constricted when the client is sitting down or moving around
- Stomas are likely to need managing several times a day, which means that the clothing a client wears must be suited to that, whether it’s a case of wearing loose-fitting, easy to remove clothing or a specific range of clothing for stoma wearers
- Clothing is not usually supplied by statutory services but clients may well be able to get alternative charitable funding for specialist clothes. Some local education authorities have been known to help school pupils out with the cost of specific clothing, which can be helpful – the best way for your clients to get hold of that information is via their local authority or Citizens Advice Bureau
Designer stoma bags?
Traditional colostomy bags aren’t attractive and the impact they can have on a client’s self-esteem and self-consciousness are considerable.
Thankfully, there are entrepreneurs in the marketplace working on solving this problem – take Stephanie Monty for example.
Stephanie’s business, Ostique, is working to produce “designer” stoma bags, which turns the bag from something clinical to something far more subtle and aesthetically pleasing, after being inspired to do something by her father and brothers, all of whom suffer from Crohn’s disease.
Here’s what Stephanie had to say about her project: “I took my inspiration from nice underwear and tattoo artwork. The aim was to come up with a product which isn’t an embarrassment. It can be worn for up to six hours for swimming, on the beach, in the gym or during intimacy. It must be sweat-proof, waterproof, leak-proof and even sun-cream-proof.”
Richard Branson, Adidas, frustrations and opportunities
Another story, which is very close to home for Promoting Independence, concerns Iolo Edwards, son of our commercial director Karen.
Iolo was diagnosed with Acute Severe Ulcerative Colitis and had to have his bowel removed to save his life last April.
Consequently, he now has to wear a stoma bag, initially wearing the traditional beige bags, which he grew to hate.
Channelling his creative spirit, Iolo bought some black and white bags, decorating them with his favourite brands, like Ralph Lauren and Adidas. Like Stephanie, he’d turned something that can be damaging to wellbeing into something of a fashion accessory.
This wasn’t Iolo’s only creative product idea, and he was fortunate enough to discuss his ideas with Richard Branson and Kate Winslet when he happened to meet them on a beach on holiday last summer. https://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/how-teenager-turning-frustrations-opportunities
Iolo’s brush with Branson got him on the radar of Nicola Dames – the owner of Vanilla Blush clothing.
Vanilla Blush makes clothing specifically for people with stoma bags, and Nicola was kind enough to send Iolo some pants and swimming trunks with internal pockets for the bag, as well as some tight vests for smooth lines.
Nicola’s products are available on prescription too, which shows how the NHS is moving with these trends – the products are for men, women and children, so if you want to find out more, visit vblush.com
All of these stories show that brilliant, creative minds are at work to solve the problem of the stoma bags, and manufacturers and retailers in the industry can channel this entrepreneurial spirit to serve the market.
If you have any queries, please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stuart Barrow of Promoting Independence is a member of the British Association of Occupational Therapists panel and a recognised contributor in the field of home adaptations. His experience is sought by manufacturers and service providers looking for an expert opinion. He also runs the Occupational Therapy Adaptations Conference