How to Say the Right Thing to a Stroke Survivor

Stroke Patient
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When you know someone who is recovering from a stroke, it is important to know that social support, helps the healing process. Positive relationships and interpersonal interactions help prevent depression, which may promote optimal health and recovery after a stroke.

People with serious health problems such as cancer and stroke often notice that friends and well-wishers can be tongue-tied when they don’t know what to say. Stroke survivors are often met with artificial or exaggerated enthusiasm meant to cheer them up, or, at the other extreme, friends and family members can be tense while trying to avoid saying the wrong thing.

If you have a friend, a family member, or a co-worker who is recovering from a stroke, it is a lot easier when you know what he or she needs to hear.

Here are seven things that every stroke survivor needs to hear.

One Day at a Time

Genuinely applaud the small advances that your friend is achieving. Being able to walk 10 steps can be a great achievement for someone who could barely walk a few steps a week ago. Don't set unrealistic expectations by saying that your loved one will be able to go back to running marathons next year, because that is a set up for a disappointment.

Leave the specifics of goal setting to the therapists who know the personal details about your friend’s stroke deficit. It is true that having an attitude that, ‘the sky is the limit, ‘ is encouraging. But some stroke survivors might worry about falling short of expectations. Show that you accept your friend regardless of the long-term outcome. After a stroke, improvement may be substantial or it may be minimal, and there is a level of unpredictability.

Can I Help You?

Better yet- what do you need next Monday? Offer to help and designate a time to make it happen. Most survivors do not want to be a burden. When you set a few specific days that you want to help, it can encourage someone who is hesitant to take you up on your offer.

What Can I Move for You?

Many stroke survivors need to rearrange items in the house to make day-to-day life more convenient. When people have old things they want to get rid of, seasonal items to move, or things that need rearranging, the effects of a stroke feel even more profound. These tasks that may seem quick and easy for you can be overwhelming for a stroke survivor who is living with a new handicap.

Acceptance of the Situation

A stroke is an unwelcome shock no matter how you look at it. To make matters worse, there are many controllable risk factors of stroke that, perhaps, could have been better taken care of in the years leading up to a stroke. Don't take it upon yourself to blame the survivor for not taking care of herself. Don’t blame the spouse or point out that the adult children don't call enough. Don’t blame health care providers for not doing enough.

The stroke happened. Blaming a survivor for not taking care of his health prior to the stroke is pointless. There is no benefit in making someone feel bad about unchangeable events, just look towards the future. Doctors work with stroke survivors to evaluate for risk factors and make a medical plan to prevent further strokes, so you do not need to bear this duty for your friend.

Can You Help Me?

This can really make your friend feel alive and important. Ask for help or advice about his or her area of expertise, whether it is raising kids, gardening, cooking or religion. Most people thrive on respect and recognition. If you can remind a stroke survivor of her abilities and ask him or her to share some know-how, your chat will produce memories that last for a long time.

Let's Just Hang Out

Go for a walk, lunch, shopping, crafting, volunteering, or just a visit. When you tell someone who is recovering from a devastating illness that you just want to hang out together for fun without a sense of obligation, you essentially allow your friend to look at the new chapter in life. You are giving your loved one reassurance that the future is about much more than just illness.

What Are Your Plans?

When you ask about plans for your friend's next birthday, anniversary etc., you show that you believe in the future and living life to the fullest possible. A stroke may prevent or delay spending golden years traveling the world, but it absolutely doesn't have to put an end to enjoyment.

A Word From Verywell

Many of us, even with the best intentions, are not naturally gifted when it comes to knowing how to say the right thing. For some of us, empathy and connection take planning and a little bit of thinking ahead. It can take time to be able to imagine ourselves in someone else's shoes. A stroke survivor will benefit when you put thought into what to say to make sure he or she is comfortable and to make your one-to-ones encompass what he or she needs to hear.

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