While ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease can cause symptoms at any time, there might be times when your friend or family member really needs extra support – no matter how long it’s been since their original diagnosis. From an especially bad disease flare-up that might land a person in the hospital, to treatments not working, living with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease can sometimes be a rollercoaster ride, physically and emotionally.
Whether a situation is embarrassing, exhausting, or just downright painful, having you as a reliable person that your loved ones can depend upon for anything can help ease their stress. This could involve driving them to the doctor’s office or simply being someone to talk to after an especially tough experience.
Showing compassion and understanding are essential when someone living with IBD needs to miss out on important life moments. While they may have been excited to take part in your wedding, flare-ups don’t care. It’s important to remain supportive during times like this.
Be sure to recognize that ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are life-long diseases. Be aware that during the journey some friendships may change. Someone living with IBD may experience the breakdown of some friendships and the strengthening of others, as all people’s level of understanding differs. As a supporter, understand that is normal and neither you nor your friend should feel guilty.
Did you know: stressful situations may make symptoms worse and in some cases even trigger them. It’s important to remain supportive when your friend or family member needs help with something even if it seems unrelated to their disease. It might be an upcoming move, a big exam or even an issue at work, so keep in mind that a stressful situation can have more impactful consequences for people living with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease – and offer your help accordingly!
It is also important to not let those you support feel as if they have done something wrong to cause their illness, like eating “bad” foods or being too stressed out. Supporters should understand that what might cause symptoms varies by individual, and you may not always know what the triggers are. Know that there are techniques that may help individuals living with IBD alleviate some of them.
Sometimes, those you are supporting will want and appreciate your support – such as driving them to appointments or listening when they talk about their experiences. Support may take on many different forms, depending on what an individual needs or prefers; it may include close friends or family, a trusted healthcare professional, or talking with others impacted by IBD. Another way to help you and your friend or family member living with IBD receive support may include finding an in-person or virtual support community to engage with, or contacting a local advocacy organization for more information on resources they offer.
Other times, a great supporter can help by getting their friend’s or family member’s mind off of what they are dealing with, which can feel like it’s taking over their life. Doing something that feels “normal” such as relaxing on the couch or taking a leisurely walk can help someone with IBD feel like they still have a sense of normalcy in their sometimes chaotic life.