When you have a chronic illness like Crohn's disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you may worry about how it will affect your relationships with others. People dealing with Crohn’s have a lot to juggle, from medications to unexpected flare-ups, and it's not uncommon for them to experience issues with anxiety, depression, and poor self-image, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. and a strong support system is essential. If you have a friend with Crohn’s, check out these tips on how to be a good friend to them when they need your support most.
1. Don’t offer unsolicited advice
In an effort to help a friend, we often bombard them with any information we come across that we think might help them — every healthy remedy, supplement, or new medication on the market. If your friend has asked you to do this, then that’s fine — but sometimes it can become overwhelming to receive so much advice, especially when you’ve likely heard it all already. Be sure to check with your friend to see if they want the added help doing research or if your efforts would be better spent benefiting them in another way.
2. Be kind when plans get cancelled
Listen: No one wants to cancel fun plans to deal with an IBD episode. So if your friend has continually cancelled on you due to illness, take a breath and remember to be patient and kind. While it may disrupt your schedule, know that it’s a far greater disruption to their lives — and one that’s out of their control. Instead, ask if there is anything you can do to support them or if they might like some company for a night in instead. An at-home movie night might just boost their spirits.
3. Don’t discuss your friend’s illness without their permission.
This should go without saying, but unfortunately we sometimes forget that not everyone wants their health discussed like the morning news. If someone wants to know about your friend’s Crohn’s, direct them back to your friend for the information. Follow your friend’s lead about what times are appropriate to bring it up and what times are not.
4. Be sensitive to bathroom trips
While Crohn’s symptoms go beyond digestive issues, we all know our friends with Crohn’s are more likely to have to make multiple bathroom stops. Be patient and kind when allowing for that time. Don’t rush your friend or draw too much attention to the stops — as it may only serve to embarrass them.
5. Get a list of helpful things to do during a flare-up or hospital stay.
Crohn’s flare-ups or related hospital stays can be rough, but they are an unfortunate reality for many people with this chronic disease. If you know ahead of time that your friend will be in the hospital, then try to get a list together of things that will help them feel better while they’re hospital bound. They may need help with childcare, meals for their family that is still at home, someone to run errands for them, or even someone to come tidy up the house so that they can come back to a peaceful, clean home. Only your friend can tell you exactly what they will need help with, so try making a list prior to any emergencies so that you will be prepared.
The bottom line
Good friends are precious when you’re dealing with a chronic illness, and what each person needs to feel supported may vary. Keep up good communication with your friend during their ups and downs with Crohn’s, and when in doubt, ask what they need. Your support will mean the world to them.