Millions of Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a chronic bowel disease that includes both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD can cause widespread inflammation, either in the large intestine (ulcerative colitis) or anywhere in your digestive tract (Crohn’s disease).
Most people with IBD experience significant symptoms, including abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea. Symptoms often worsen during “flares,” making it hard for people with IBD to engage in many of their normal activities.
Not surprisingly, IBD also has an emotional impact, causing depression and anxiety in many people. If you have a friend or loved one with IBD, it can be challenging to know how to support them.
As leading providers of IBD treatment in Moline, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, the team at Digestive Disease Specialists understands the importance of supportive care for patients struggling with their disease and its symptoms. If you’re wondering what you can do to help a friend or loved one who’s suffering from Crohn’s disease, these tips can help.
Be a good listener
One of the best ways to support your loved one is to simply listen to them. As mentioned, Crohn’s disease can come with a big emotional burden along with the physical demands. Being a dependable, supportive, patient listener can give your loved one a safe place to vent and work through their emotions without feeling judged.
Don’t offer advice unless asked
Of course, when you listen, it can be tempting to give advice or just throw in your own two cents. But, while listening is great, offering advice is a no-no unless you’re directly asked.
Unless you have inflammatory bowel disease, there’s no real way to know what your friend is going through or what’s the best way to handle a specific situation. Only give advice when asked, and even then, be brief and compassionate.
Although there are treatments and lifestyle changes to help manage IBD, it can still be very unpredictable. If your friend is late to an event or needs to cancel entirely, be understanding. It’s almost certain they’d far rather be with you than having to stay home because of uncomfortable symptoms.
Know your role
If your friend is having a flare-up, you might be tempted to suggest things to do to distract them. However, many people simply want to be left alone. Or, if they want someone around, they may want you just to be there quietly. How do you know what your friend would like you to do during a flare-up? Ask them.
Don’t make a big deal about bathroom trips
Because it affects the digestive tract, Crohn’s often causes frequent and often irresistible urges to use the bathroom. If your friend needs to go, treat it casually and don’t make a big deal about it. And, if you plan an outing with your friend, make sure there are bathrooms nearby in case your friend needs to use one.
Don’t discuss your friend’s illness with anyone else
There’s certainly no shame in having a chronic disease, but that doesn’t mean you want the world to know, either. Some people make assumptions or judgments based on a person’s illness, which could make your friend even more uncomfortable and self-conscious.
Bottom line: Your friend’s disease is their business, and it’s up to them to decide if they want to share it with anyone else. If they share their experiences with you, keep them to yourself.
Learn all you can about their condition
This might be the last item on our list, but it’s quite possibly the most important. One of the best ways you can support your friend or loved one is to learn all you can about their condition.
Of course, that doesn’t mean lecturing them or telling them about the latest research. It simply means educating yourself so you can be more compassionate and supportive — and maybe a little more forgiving when your friend needs to change plans at the last minute.
Our team provides top-notch care
Our team keeps abreast of the most innovative treatments and cutting-edge research regarding Crohn’s disease and its management. If your friend is seeking treatment for their Crohn’s disease symptoms, we can help. Tell your friend they can book an appointment online or over the phone with Digestive Disease Specialists today to learn more.