Tips For Caregivers When A Loved One Has Crohn’s Disease
Pegasus caregivers in Sylmar and elsewhere offer these tips to help you care for a loved one with Crohn’s disease. We know the challenges that patients and those who are assisting them face with this often-misunderstood condition.
Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It can affect any part of the digestive system. Ileocolitis, which harms the small intestine and colon, is the most common form of Crohn’s.
Ulcerative colitis is a second type of IBD. Although it is initially similar to Crohn’s, it differs as it progresses. Although serious and painful, it only affects the mucosa (surface tissue) of the colon.
The Cause Remains Unknown
Medical science has not yet determined exactly what causes Crohn’s. Researchers are studying the roles of heredity and the immune system. They have also pinpointed the following:
- Age – the disease can occur at any age, but more often begins in younger individuals
- Ethnicity – initially whites had the highest risk, but Crohn’s is now frequently occurring in western blacks
- Family history – if one member of a family has Crohn’s, other members are at higher risk
- Smoking – not only increases the risk but also worsens the condition once it develops
- Medications – OTC drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium don’t cause Crohn’s, but they irritate the digestive system and make the disease worse
- Environment – individuals living in industrialized areas, especially those eating refined foods, have a higher risk than others
To date, there is no cure for Crohn’s. It can go into remission spontaneously for varying lengths of time.
Crohn’s can be very painful. The intensity and location of the pain differ among individuals. Symptoms other than pain include:
- Anal fissures
- Internal ulcers – if bleeding ulcers, there may be blood in the feces
- Loss of appetite
- Ulcers in the mouth
The symptoms often depend on what part of the digestive tract is inflamed. IBD can also affect the bones, eyes, joints (arthritis), kidneys, and liver in some individuals.
Medical science offers a variety of treatments for Crohn’s. These include:
- Dietary changes
- Suppressing the immune system
There is no treatment that works for everyone.
Always Be Prepared For A Flare-Up
Crohn’s disease is challenging for loved ones and caregivers. When not in remission, the disease is debilitating. Flare-ups can be unpredictable, short-lived, or last for months.
A flare-up can be triggered by stress, diet, alcohol, or drugs. The triggers are different for everyone. Your observations can help determine your loved one’s triggers.
Flare-ups typically include diarrhea, usually accompanied by pain. Some individuals experience nausea and vomiting. As a caregiver, you must always be prepared.
If you are leaving home with your loved one, carry a bag with a change of clothes and supplies. Include items such as wipes, face cloths, and other cleanup supplies. Decide what to include based on the symptoms your loved one usually experiences.
Carry any medications with you, or make sure your loved one has them handy. Include water so that they can take the appropriate med if required. If the med has to be taken with food, include a snack.
Avoid judging or criticizing when accidents happen. Honor their privacy. Remember that a sudden occurrence of diarrhea or vomiting in public is embarrassing to your loved one.
No matter where you are going or what you are doing, always know where the nearest restrooms are. Your loved one typically won’t have much notice of a flare-up. You won’t have time to search for facilities.
Some flare-ups are the result of not taking medications correctly. You can help by organizing everything for them.
In their distress or pain, your loved one can become confused about what medication they’ve taken. Design a system so that you, or they, can determine what was taken and when.
A disabled individual may need assistance with cleanup. Some individuals may have irritation in their anal areas, especially if they experience frequent diarrhea. They may need help with applying soothing ointments.
Keep A Food Diary
Because certain foods can trigger a flare-up, keeping a food diary can be beneficial. Help your loved one keep track of what they’ve eaten and the results. Try to also record incidents of emotional distress or activities that precede a flare-up.
Your loved one needs emotional support as well as your physical support. Living with Crohn’s disease can be a source of:
Keep in mind that Crohn’s can be difficult to talk about for many. If they want to talk, usually the most helpful thing you can do is simply listen. Just do your best to “be there” for them.
When your loved one is unable to go out, find something you can do with them at home. Rent a movie or binge-watch their favorite TV show. Pamper them with a special activity.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our services include respite care when you need a break from caring for your loved one. Our caregivers in Sylmar and our other locations are here for you at whatever level of assistance is needed.