Six Ways to Support a Stroke Survivor

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 can 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.

Stroke patient in hospital bed
John Moore / Staff / Getty Images

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 six sentiments 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 setup 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. Many survivors are concerned about being 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.

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.

Want to 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 they are comfortable and to make your one-to-ones encompass what he or she needs to hear.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Heidi Moawad, MD
Heidi Moawad is a neurologist and expert in the field of brain health and neurological disorders. Dr. Moawad regularly writes and edits health and career content for medical books and publications.