DEALING WITH THE IMPACT OF BOWEL ISSUES
According to the NHS, it is estimated that at least 50% of people have diverticula by the time they are 80 years old: equivalent to 1.5million people; 5% of people- over 3million of us- have them by the age of 40. The condition can become so extreme that over 100,000 people a year are admitted to hospital because of it1. The NHS also estimates that up to 1 in 5 people in the UK suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). A further 0.25milion are affected by Crohns Disease, with almost 20,000 hospital admissions a year from severe symptoms.
The statistics demonstrate that the associated hygiene issues- constipation and/or diarrhea- are situations that many involved in care will encounter.
Yet they are ‘invisible’ disabilities, and not commonly discussed.
If you’ve ever had even the slightest issue when ‘going’, either through constipation or diarrhea, you will understand how much of an issue it becomes if it’s a daily problem. The impact on daily life of diverticulitis specifically is acknowledged, with patients reporting a “substantially reduced quality of life” socially and emotionally2.
The impact on sufferers’ lives is, to quote the report, “debilitating”.
It’s not just the ’bothersome’ symptoms of the pain and bloating, but the potentially serious of infection and bleeding. The same report further acknowledges that enhancing the quality of life of patients will benefit them, and the healthcare systems that support them.
There is much that a change in diet and /or medical treatment can achieve, but the afflicted still has to deal with daily life.
Things as simple as ensuring a ‘well-fitting’ toilet, and/or utilising assistive technology can have positive benefits, for patients’ hygiene, health and psychological wellbeing….
In terms of a ‘well-fitting’ toilet, whilst there is no ‘right way’ to sit on the toilet, it is accepted that bladder and bowel evacuation is facilitated if the person is sat upright, feet on the floor, and/or bending slightly forward. Leaning backwards, and/or having your feet swinging in the air, impedes the whole process.
Cheeks need to be slightly parted. The buttocks should be supported by the seat, not be squashed together.
If the assistive technology route is pursued, consider equipment such as a wash & dry (automatic shower) toilet.
Dr Ken Townend, who suffers from diverticulitis, had a conventional WC at his Derbyshire home. He was feeling increasingly dejected by the impact of the condition on his life. His bowels would only open every 5-10 days, meaning he would be sat on the loo on those occasions for a while.
Once finished, his rectum would be sore, making it painful to clean with even the softest toilet paper or wipes; in balancing the pain with hygiene, he would worry that he had properly cleaned himself. Sometimes he would even bleed, exposing him to risk of infection.
He has changed his conventional WC for a wash & dry toilet, in his case the brand leader, the Clos-o-Mat Palma Vita. The unit has built-in douching and drying, so he no longer has to try and wipe clean: remaining seated and pressing on the flush pad after toileting triggers simultaneous flushing and warm water washing, followed by warm air drying. He says, “I get far fewer sore bums, which I used to get all the time. And I am confident I am clean.”
1 NHS Choices
2The Burden of Diverticular Disease on Patients and Healthcare Systems