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How to support a Sibling with IBD

by: Randa Samaha, FNP-C

Do you have a sibling with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)? You may feel like you are on the outside looking in, trying to figure out exactly what they are dealing with. You are not alone if you feel scared, confused, frustrated, or even jealous of the attention they are getting because of their disease. These are common emotions that people experience when they have a sibling with IBD, or any chronic disease for that matter.

IBD can affect the whole family. Having a better understanding of what is going on with your sibling and how you can be a part of their journey may help them feel more supported than ever.

Educate Yourself

You don’t need to know all the ins and outs of IBD, but a general understanding of the disease may help shine some light on what your sibling is going through.

You can start here: Common FAQs about IBD by Trellus Health and What is IBD by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation.

You may also want to take some time and ask your sibling about their experiences with IBD. You can learn a lot by having an open discussion. They’ll feel heard and you’ll start to gain a better understanding of what you can do to help support them.

Offer Activity Options

IBD is sometimes referred to as an “invisible disease.” There are not always outward signs of what is going on inside the body. Even if your sibling looks just fine, they may be dealing with symptoms that are only noticed by them. Try checking in with your sibling to see how they are doing. If they are not feeling their best or are working through a flare, you may want to consider adjusting your plans to accommodate their needs.

Instead of that bike ride through the city you were planning, take a spin around the neighborhood so that in the event a bathroom break is needed, you’ll know which establishments or neighbors will provide bathroom access. Consider ordering dinner and watching a movie at home and save a visit to that Michelin-star restaurant you’ve been dying to try for a time you can both enjoy it. Having something fun and exciting to look forward to can be therapeutic in itself.

A Little Help Goes a Long Way

It can be hard to ask for help, even more so if you feel like your disease is a burden to others or you’re simply overwhelmed or exhausted.

Check-in with your sibling. They may know exactly what their needs are, but if not, try to think about what you can do to make them feel supported. Tasks you get done without much thought or effort may be draining to your sibling when they are not feeling well. You may offer to make their bed, prepare their breakfast, or bring home school assignments they have missed. You can grocery shop for them, take their car for an oil change, accompany them to a doctor’s visit, or walk their dog. A small act of kindness can go a long way. Ask your sibling about the goals they set with their Trellus Health Resilience Coach. Maybe you can help them achieve one!

It can feel lonely having a chronic disease, but knowing someone is there to support you, no matter what can make a world of a difference.

Resilience for IBD is Resilience for Life! ™ 

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