When you have an ostomy, your ostomy is with you all of the time. It doesn't go away when you are shopping, working, or running. As an ostomate you will need to find ways to make your ostomy work in every situation. Not just when you are in the comfort of your own home. You will need to change or empty your ostomy system while you are away from your personal bathroom. In order to change your ostomy pouch in a public restroom you will need to plan ahead. This is an important achievement to unlock for anyone with an ostomy. Having an ostomy does not mean your life is reduced to only where you live, you will be able to do all the things you enjoyed before. Learning how to care for your ostomy takes time and patience but it is worth it.
How to Change Your Ostomy Pouch in a Public Restroom
Gather Your Ostomy Supplies:
You will need your ostomy pouch system, any ostomy accessories you are currently using, such as lubricating deodorant, skin prep wipes, or barrier rings/seals. I would recommend that you have enough supplies for two full changes. Double check your supplies each and every time you leave the house. Nothing is more frustrating than arriving at your location and not having an essential item with you. If you take the extra ten minutes to go through your ostomy supply travel bag before you leave the house and make sure everything is in place you will be prepared if/when accidents happen! It is also helpful to keep a spare set of clothes in your office or your car, just in case.
Pack Up Your Ostomy Supplies:
Find a bag that is comfortable to use and big enough to hold your supplies. Bags with pockets and organized zippered sections can be helpful to keep your ostomy supplies neat and ordered. There are many bags out there and it is important that you choose one that is big enough to hold your stuff but isn't so big it feels overwhelming to carry with you. When you pack up your ostomy supplies, only carry three or four skin prep wipes, you don't need the whole box. You can also find small plastic bottles to carry a portion of lubricating deodorant so there is no need to carry a huge bottle. Some other items that can be helpful are personal bathing wipes, hand sanitizer, and Bag-It-Away Ostaway X-Bag ostomy disposal bags.
Ostomy System and a Public Restroom:
There are different kinds of public bathrooms, whenever possible single stall bathrooms and/or "family" restrooms are the easiest to use when you need to change your ostomy pouch. If those styles of public restroom are not available, don't panic. You can still accomplish your ostomy bag change inside of a standard stall. Hang up your bag on the hook inside the door. If there is not a hook, you will need to put the bag on the floor if it is clean enough or if you are using a backpack, you can just wear it. If there isn't a hook and the floor is out of the question, just loop the strap over the top corner of the stall door. Remember, having an ostomy is not a bad thing and it is not gross. You are using the restroom, everyone uses the restroom. The people who are in the restroom with you are more concerned about themselves and what they are doing than what you are doing. It is normal to be nervous but you can do it!
Changing Your Drainable Ostomy Pouch:
I have talked to people who find it easier to sit down when they empty their drainable ostomy pouch and others who find it easier to just lean over the toilet to drain their pouch. Whatever way is more comfortable for you is the right way. When you are at home, try a few different ways and see what feels and works best. Practicing balancing your ostomy travel kit and draining your pouch at home can help you be more comfortable when you need to do it in a public place. Once your ostomy pouch is drained, take a few pieces of toilet paper and wipe around the drainable opening to clean up any output that remains. You can also use a baby wipe to clean around the opening as well. When you are finished tidying up your pouch, close the bottom of your pouch securely. Take a moment and check the closure to make sure it is completely closed. This moment of double checking is time well spent because if your bag is open it is going to be a problem sooner rather than later. You are ready to exit the stall and wash your hands and be on your way!
Changing Your Closed End Ostomy Pouch:
If you are currently using a closed end pouch and your need to change it in a public place, your task is a bit easier than changing a drainable ostomy bag. This is because a closed end ostomy pouch does not have to be drained. Once it is 3/4 full, you will remove the ostomy pouch from the wafer and discard the entire pouch and then you will attach a new and clean ostomy pouch to your wafer. If you are using a lubricating deodorant, put the lubricating deodorant inside your clean pouch before it is connected to the wafer. The question then comes in, what do you do with your used ostomy pouch? Many people use the plastic disposable bags from the grocery store but those are loud and they aren't water tight either. Another popular choice is the pediatric diaper disposal bags. I think these are better than the grocery store bags but they are not as good as bags that are designed specifically for discarding ostomy pouches. Bag-It-Away is a company that designed disposable ostomy bags that are whisper quiet, water-tight, impossible to see through, and odor blocking. These are discreet and easy to use, simply close the top of the bag just like you would close a ziploc style sandwich bag. Ostaway X-Bags are easy to throw in your ostomy travel bag and they are the best way to discard your used ostomy pouch.
Changing Your Entire Ostomy System Including Your Wafer:
This is not as intimidating as it sounds! If you need to change your ostomy wafer and flange along with your ostomy pouch, remember, just do one step at a time. The first thing you need to do is make sure your new pouch is ready to go. Before you leave the house, pre-cut any wafers that are "cut-to-fit pouch systems" so you don't have to do it on the fly. Next, get your disposal bag ready so you can throw away your old ostomy bag. Now, clean up any leaks or messes with a stomal cleaning wipe. Place the discarded ostomy pouch in the disposal bag. Apply skin prep around your stoma and wait one minute for the skin prep to dry. Now you are ready to put on your new wafer. Place the wafer around your stoma and press and hold it in place for one minute, this gives the adhesive a chance to adhere to your skin. Take your new ostomy pouch and put the lubricating deodorant inside of it and connect the pouch to the wafer. Pack your supplies back up and clean up anything that needs it with your cleansing wipes.