Ostomy Support Groups Go Virtual | Hollister US

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Ostomy Support Groups Go Virtual

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, many ostomy support groups are now meeting online and providing virtual support.

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Learn about how United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) Affiliated Ostomy Support Groups (ASGs) are going virtual to help members cope in a time of fear and uncertainty.

Through highs and lows, people living with an ostomy have benefited from in-person peer support. Sharing experiences with others in similar situations can make one feel less alone. Unfortunately, there are times – such as during a pandemic – when meeting face-to-face isn’t possible.

“The arrival of COVID-19 is challenging our more than 300 affiliated ostomy support groups to maintain their continuity after years of holding in-person gatherings,” said Ed Pfueller, UOAA Communications and Outreach Manager. “Our members still need support, but many of them are older and have a chronic disease. That puts them at higher risk for developing a serious illness.”

Primary care physicians are now conducting appointments with their patients over the phone or via online video. And many of the UOAA’s ASGs are using the same approach. “Several are utilizing video conferencing to connect with their members,” said Ed. “They are adapting and growing with the times.”

Virtual support trailblazers

The South Texas Ostomy Support Group started live streaming its meetings even before COVID-19 began spreading. “For our first virtual meeting, we had 10 people log in, which was much lower than our usual in-person attendance,” said Group President Christine Miller. “But it was very heartwarming to have them participating.”

In mid-April 2020, UOAA Treasurer and Morris County New Jersey Ostomy Association board member George Salamy helped the group set up its first video call. “Twenty-three people signed on with no technical issues,” said George. “And some members even made suggestions for future virtual meeting topics, including yoga, overcoming depression, and using sound therapy for relaxation.”

The Ostomy Association of North Central Oklahoma and the Greater Cincinnati Ostomy Association are among other UOAA ASGs that have switched to virtual meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to find a local ostomy support group

You can use the UOAA’s Support Group Finder to locate an ASG in your area.

If your local ASG is not holding virtual support meetings, contact them and ask them to consider offering online meetings to ensure that your ostomy community is safe and supported. If you are familiar with Zoom, Skype, or other similar video conferencing platforms, you can even volunteer to help set up them set up the meetings!

We’re all in this together

Being there for each other is so important for anyone living with an ostomy. If in-person meetings aren’t an option, the UOAA strongly recommends leveraging virtual technology to get support, give support, and stay connected.