Our Helpline’s team have been a lifeline for people over the past month – with coronavirus raising lots of concerns for people affected by Crohn’s and Colitis. One of our Helplines Officers, Anna, explains how the team have been helping people and answers some important coronavirus questions along the way.
My name is Anna and I have just come up to my year anniversary of working on the Helplines at Crohn’s & Colitis UK. No amount of reading up on the conditions can truly help you to understand what it’s like living with Crohn’s or Colitis unless you talk to people daily. Because everybody is so individual, working here has opened my eyes to the many issues and also the wonderful stories people have.
Before working here, I was as a drug and alcohol recovery worker, supporting individuals through their addiction within the community. I knew in my next job I wanted to continue working somewhere that supported people and most importantly to be a listening ear for people through their lowest moments.
When I arrived for the interview the warmth, compassion and commitment of the staff was clear, and I knew I wanted to work here. We all have different backgrounds - from previous housing support workers, a Samaritan and even a scientist. I knew the Helplines team could share with me their great range of knowledge and experiences!
Before coronavirus we spoke to people about many different issues from poo to financial information and everything in between. In addition to information we also provide emotional support to people not just with Crohn’s or Colitis, but their parents and families too. Although we’re a Helpline we don’t only speak to people on the phone, we also use LiveChat, email and Facebook.
Having different ways to contact us means we can reach more people, who maybe don’t feel confident on the phone or want the privacy of being able to send a message.
As you can imagine, some people’s situations can be quite upsetting, but we can always rely on each other for support. We also enjoy our dressing up at Crohn’s & Colitis UK and as a team we recently took the opportunity to dress up as characters from Matilda for World Book Day.
The outbreak of coronavirus has had a massive impact on our work. Our day now looks unrecognisable. We’ve changed our rota to maximise the number of calls and emails we answer. The statistics speak for themselves, in the first week, the number of enquires was not double, triple but quadruple the amount we usually get!
We’re still experiencing an exceptionally high demand for information. We’re also working remotely which is a big change for us but we’re still supporting each other with catch ups at the start and the end of the day. We understand this is a worrying and uncertain time for people and we want you to know we’re working hard to ensure you’re receiving the information and support you deserve during this time.
One of the most common questions we get asked about coronavirus is, “What is my risk?” We have some easy to use resources to help you assess your risk, including a decision tree to help you work out which risk category you are in - depending on what medication you’re taking and the dosage.
Even if you already know your risk level the COVID-19 UK IBD Tool is a 15 minute online survey, that not only identifies your risk level but also sends it to your IBD team who can follow up with you, if needed.
The information on risk is only for people with Crohn’s and Colitis, if you have other health conditions please speak to your medical team.
Another commonly asked question is, ‘Should I be going to work?’ We have information on this too. Once you have established your risk you can share the information on our website and your downloadable results from ‘COVID-19 UK IBD Tool’ with your employer. We also have information on our website regarding employment and finances.
I want everyone to be confident in the information we’re providing. There is a lot of information and misinformation out there, but we’ve worked with experts and expert organisations such as the British Society of Gastroenterology to produce this information – so you can be confident in what we’re saying.
We’re updating the information on our website regularly, so for the most up to date information, our website is the best place to go.
We know people are feeling worried, anxious and bored – but please remember you’re not alone and as a charity we’re here for you! I would say find the time to do things you enjoy and make you feel relaxed. It’s also important to keep in touch with your friends and family. Things that I find help me if I am feeling anxious or bored is baking (plus you also get to enjoy the outcome). I also find exercise can be therapeutic when you’re feeling low, I personally like to do a mini trampoline class called Bounce which is lots of fun and keeps me active.
If you need additional support or thing to keep you busy, here are just a few ideas for keeping in touch and helping the Crohn’s and Colitis community:
Ask your friends and family to enter our online raffle – as a charity, we can only provide our Helpline services thanks to the generosity of our supporters and members. We need support now more than ever, so we can be there for everyone with Crohn’s and Colitis during this difficult time. Tickets are £1 each and the top prize is £1,500.
Talking Toolkit – if you need to talk to your employer or someone you’re living with about your condition, this personalised toolkit helps you find the words. You choose who you want to talk to and what aspects of your condition you want to tell them about.