10 Little Ways to Help Someone With Ulcerative Colitis

by Mandy Patterson Patient Expert

Whether you're a caregiver, friend, or family member of someone with ulcerative colitis (UC), your support means the world to them. UC does more than send your loved one to the bathroom — it affects them mentally and physically in other ways, too. If you don't have UC, it can be difficult to relate to what you're loved one is going through, so here we’re sharing 10 meaningful ways you can support them.

Woman reading a disappointing text message.

Don't Get Upset Every Time That They Cancel Plans

There's going to be more than one occasion where your loved one is going to cancel plans on you. Sometimes in advance and other times right at the last minute. When this happens, don't take it personally. Your loved one wants to spend time with you, but their UC can make that difficult. It's never personal when they cancel on you. It can get tiring after a while, but try to remain calm and be understanding if plans fall through. Let them know you understand and hope you can see them next time.

Couple visiting a doctor together.

Offer to Help Take Them to Any Procedures or Appointments

Taking your loved one to an appointment or a procedure is a fantastic way to support them. Many times, procedures for UC won't allow the patient to transport themselves home alone afterward, and they could really use a ride. Being present at appointments, whether it's going into the appointment with them, or just being there for moral support in the waiting room, can help alleviate a ton of stress for your loved one.

Men watching a movie on the couch.

Plan a Night In

If your going out plans got canceled, planning a night in with your loved one can be just the right medicine. Those with UC love a good night in, curled up on the couch in a comfy blanket, with a heating pad and good company. You could plan to watch movies, catch up on shows, or just sit around and talk. Throw on your comfiest clothes, grab a pillow or two, and maybe pick up a snack or favorite beverage for a night in.

Love notes on the bathroom mirror

Send Them Notes of Encouragement When They Least Expect It

If you know that you're loved one is really struggling with their UC, send them a note of encouragement. Whether that's a simple text message saying, "Hey, I'm thinking about you," or an actual note, it can make a world of difference for your loved one. Sometimes, people with UC struggle just to feel like themselves. Knowing that they're in your thoughts can help bolster their confidence and make them feel a little more loved.

Listening to a friend.

Listen and Be Present

Most of the time, your loved one with UC needs someone to vent to. It's important to listen to them so they can air their grievances with the disease. When they are venting, be present. Offer words of support where you can. Sometimes, your loved one just needs to vent to get their upset off their chest. Make sure you actively listen and help justify their feelings. They may not want you to offer solutions or give advice — rather, saying "I'm sorry you're going through this" can be enough.

Couple folding laundry together.

Help Them With Any Chores or Errands

This is one of the best ways to support your loved one with UC. Extra worry about running errands and doing chores around the house can make your loved one feel inadequate if they aren't able to perform these tasks. By picking up a prescription for them, making their favorite safe food, or helping them with laundry or cleaning, you can really show how much you care.

Holding a loved one's hands.

Be Understanding When You Can

It can be difficult when your loved one consistently cancels plans, gets upset or frustrated easily, or is so fatigued that they maybe aren't engaging as much as they used to. Try to be as understanding as possible. While you may not relate 100 percent to what they're going through, try to cut them some slack. It won't always be easy, and at times, you'll become frustrated and hurt — but know that they're not doing these types of things intentionally.

Mother comforting her daughter.

Remind Them That They're Not a Burden

One thing that goes hand-in-hand with UC is guilt. Your loved one with UC feels guilty that they can't do certain tasks, that they might not always be there for you to lean on, or they might feel that they impact your life in a negative way — especially if they require a lot of assistance. Remind your loved one how much they mean to you and that you understand you aren't being taken for granted.

Friends cooking together.

Ask About Their Dietary Restrictions and Help Accommodate Them

No one likes to struggle with dietary restrictions. If you're going out to eat with your loved one, attending a dinner at a friend's house, or just staying in and cooking, think about their dietary restrictions and try to be accommodating. This could mean cooking a dish that you know is safe or telling a friend or family member ahead of time to ensure a certain dish makes the cut. This is one less thing for them to worry about. Some people that are sentitive to certain foods may have a diet plan that they maintain to help prevent symptoms.

Father and son hugging.

Ask Them What Kind of Support They Need

If all else fails, just ask! People with UC are often hearing that they should try this or do that, or that if they changed their diet, they'd feel better. So much unsolicited advice finds its way to people with UC. That’s why sometimes it’s best to just ask your loved one, "What can I do to help?" You might be surprised at their answer. It might be something as simple as "Give me a hug," or "Nothing right now." Whatever you do, know your support means the world to them.

Mandy Patterson
Meet Our Writer
Mandy Patterson

Mandy is a patient expert and advocate for ulcerative colitis and inflammatory bowel disease. She started down the road to advocacy after receiving an ulcerative colitis diagnosis in 2013, after experiencing complications of UC since 2010. She’s a full-time technical writer and technical writing instructor for Missouri State University, where she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in professional writing. For her master’s thesis she wrote about the quality patient education materials for those diagnosed with UC, and the need for technical writers in the IBD medical field. Mandy is a Social Ambassador for the IBD HealthCentral Facebook page.