Being there to support a friend with a stoma can really make a huge difference to their life, as they navigate through the challenges which come with this medical condition.
The best way of providing support to your friend can be a simple as just being there for them. Taking the time to understand how they are feeling, sharing what it is like to have a stoma and allowing them to talk freely through their fears and worries, will give them confidence.
It’s also important to remember that friendship can be gained through support groups and online support forums, where ostomates can share their stories and experiences living with a stoma with each other.
Talking to another ostomate can be incredibly supportive and can provide opportunities of friendship for those who may not have local face to face support groups or friends who live nearby.
Ways you can support a friend a with stoma
Educate yourself:Understanding about your friend’s stoma and their stoma journey can really help. Take the time to learn about stomas, the medical condition that led to its creation, and the challenges your friend may face. Understanding their condition will allow you to empathise better and respond with sensitivity.
Encourage open communication: Create a safe and comfortable environment for your friend to openly talk about their stoma and related challenges. Let them know they can discuss anything with you without any fear of judgment.
Be empathetic: Show empathy and actively listen to your friend when they share their feelings, concerns, or frustrations related to their stoma. Let them know that you are there for them and that you care about their wellbeing.
Be non-judgemental: Avoid passing judgement or making assumptions about their condition or any changes you might notice. Your friend may already be dealing with self-esteem issues, and your non-judgemental attitude can help alleviate their anxiety.
Respect privacy: Respect your friend’s privacy and refrain from asking intrusive questions about their stoma unless they willingly share such information with you.
Confidential conversations: Keep those conversations private and confidential, remember it is a discussion between the two of you as friends.
Offer practical help: Simple tasks like helping them carry heavy bags, running errands, or assisting with household chores can be incredibly valuable.
Celebrate their triumphs: Celebrate your friend’s achievements, no matter how small they may seem. Coping with a stoma can be challenging, and acknowledging their successes can boost their morale.
Avoid making stoma-related jokes: Refrain from making jokes or insensitive comments about stomas or related matters. Such remarks can be hurtful and perpetuate stigma.
Attend support groups together: If your friend is open to it, attend stoma support groups together. These gatherings can provide an opportunity for your friend to connect with others facing similar challenges, share experiences, and learn coping strategies – there are also a range of online stoma support forums.
Be understanding about cancelled plans: Understand that your friend’s health and energy levels might fluctuate. If they need to cancel plans at the last minute due to stoma-related issues, be understanding and supportive.
Help with emotional support: Offer emotional support when your friend is feeling overwhelmed or down. Let them know that it is okay to have bad days and that you are there to lend a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on.
Learn about the equipment: If your friend uses stoma-related equipment, such as ostomy bags or appliances, educate yourself about them. This knowledge can help you provide assistance if needed and reduce any discomfort your friend might feel when talking about their equipment.
For more helpful inspiration and advice for ostomates, make sure to visit our handy stoma advice centre or check out our blog for more.