Caring for Children with IBD: Put your own mask on first!

  • If you are caring for a child with IBD it is very important to take care of yourself... FIRST!  This can seem like an incredibly selfish way of thinking, but let me assure you that it is not.  If you want to do a good job caring for your chronically ill child then it is best for the child that you make sure your health, both physical and mental, is of tantamount importance.

    Think of it like you think about the safety instructions when you board an airplane with your child.  If there is an issue on the plane we have all heard that you must first secure your own oxygen mask before trying to place an oxygen mask on your child.  If the parent does not secure their own oxygen first they can pass out and then both parent and child are in big trouble.  

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    Some signs that you might be in trouble as a caregiver: being irritable or overwhelmed, changes in sleep patterns, feeling tired all of the time, gaining or loosing a lot of weight, or a lack of interest or apathy toward activities you previously loved. 


    If you see some of these signs in yourself take some time to talk with your own physician and use some of the tips below to help prioritize your own health.

    The most important thing you can do as a caregiver is accept help when it is offered.


    I have to admit that I have not been very good at this myself.  Even when I had newborn twins, both with different medical problems, and a three year old to care for it seemed impossible to reach out and ask for help.  I just didn't want my problems to be a burden for someone else.  (Or maybe I didn't want to admit I couldn't do it all on my own).

    As I have grown and have been on the other side of the equation, offering help to loved ones, I have come to realize that most people genuinely do want to help.  If you can't allow anyone to actually watch your ill child then prepare a list of things you are comfortable allowing people to help with.  Maybe someone could run some errands for you, pick up your groceries or bring you dinner.  Whatever it is... let someone else take some of the burden from your shoulders.

    Make a plan to care for your own health. 


    You need to maintain adequate nutritional status, set some priorities on getting enough sleep whenever possible, and add exercise to help reduce the toll of stress on your body. 


    If you are on prescription medications be sure to keep up with taking them on schedule, refilling them on time, and scheduling any follow-up appointments with your own physician to manage your health issues.  I find it helpful to schedule these things into my phone's calendar so that I don't loose track of time.

    Support groups can also be huge in maintaining your sanity.


    There are so many different groups out there it is easy to find support from organizations tailored to exactly what your child is dealing with. 


    1. HealthCentral is an excellent place to start.  Posting your child's IBD story here can help you link up with other caregivers.


    2. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America is another good place to start for IBD support and issues.  There are also numerous groups on Facebook that you can join as well.  

  • 3. Keep contact with your friends and family and lean on them when you need to get some additional help or just need to "vent". 

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    Hopefully some of these tips have helped you and encouraged you to take some time to care for yourself as well. 


    If you find that you continue to be overwhelmed and depressed, please take the issue to your physician right away.  It can be very common for caregivers to experience depression and some may need more than just these simple behavioral changes to get through it.  PLEASE, Take care of yourselves so that you can continue to take care of others.  

Published On: September 17, 2013