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Marci Reiss, a licensed social worker, is founder and president of the IBD Support Foundation. She is living with ulcerative colitis (UC) herself, and specializes in helping individuals and their families manage this challenging disease.

There are many ways to be supportive

Ms. Reiss believes help comes in all forms. Whether it's the hands-on help that comes with accompanying your loved one to a doctor's visit, or more subtle support in the form of a call or an e-mail "check-in," there are many ways to help. Ms. Reiss suggests the following:

Understand that UC is not a disease that's temporary or situational. UC is a chronic disease that no medication can cure. Understand that the symptoms of UC are not the kind of things people want to talk about, so there may be feelings of embarrassment. If you can help them to find ways to feel more comfortable, this is where real helping begins.

Tips for Caregivers

  • Help your loved one maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise routine. Don't give them diet advice; offer to cook healthy food they can eat. Don't just talk about exercise; offer to walk with your loved one instead
  • Educate yourself on medications and potential side effects
  • Help your loved one get enough rest. Respect that they know what their limits are, and encourage them to "call it a day" when they look or seem tired
  • Understand that a loved one's weight loss and/or nausea could be from a really bad UC flare or reduced appetite

Be patient and don’t give up

Offer to help in ways that make sense for you and your loved one. At the very least, a person who is experiencing a UC flare will experience some interruption in their day. Some errands will not get done. Some events will get delayed or postponed indefinitely. During a UC flare, some patients may experience severe pain and weakness.

If your loved one isn't ready to accept some help just yet, be patient and don't give up. Just offering your support can make a difference.