Caregiver’s Corner: 7 Things NOT to Say to a stroke survivor

stroke survivor

Stroke can be confusing to people who never had one. It’s natural to want to say something, to console or offer advice, even when you don’t understand the nature of the stroke completely. And, when you are caring for a stroke survivor for long, it’s not rare to wear down and say things out of frustration.

Even though you have good intentions of motivating the stroke survivor, some of the things you say might be hurtful. In all fairness to them, how could you know the right things to say from the wrong, especially when you have never talked to anyone else who’s have had a stroke. Don’t worry; we are here to help. Here are a few things you should not be saying to a stroke survivor:

1 | “Let me do that for you.”

Independence is one of the most important things lost after stroke. Encouraging your loved one to do things on his/her own (partly if not completely) will help promote self-esteem and confidence after stroke. It can also help the brain recover faster. However, ensure that a certain task isn’t putting him/her at a genuine risk such as picking up a heavy object by weakened arm or managing medication when there are significant memory problems.

2 | “You seem fine to me.”

The invisible impairments after stroke include memory and concentration issues, fatigue, insomnia, depression, or anxiety. Sometimes, dealing with such consequences is more difficult to live with than physical disabilities. The person you are talking to may look normal, but he may be fighting problem solving and decision making post-stroke that his/her doctor still need to discover. Hence, shrugging off the invisible consequences of stroke can be belittling.

3 | “My (friend or relative)’s experience was much worse than yours.”

The stroke survivor you are talking to could be lucky to have minor stroke-led impairments. But, that doesn’t negate what happened to him/her nor what he/she continues to deal with. As human beings, it’s natural to draw comparisons and find patterns. But, this doesn’t always work. It is completely fine to ask questions, but equally important to listen.

4 | “You’re lucky to survive a stroke.”

This sounds like positive thinking, but not a nice thing to say to someone who had a stroke. A stroke survivor with a high disability is more likely to have suicidal thoughts and may not feel very lucky to be alive after stroke. Instead of calling it “luck,” talk about how strong, persistent, or heroic the person has been to recover from post-stroke impairments.

5 | “Maybe you’re just not trying hard enough to recover.”

Apathy (lack of interest, motivation, or emotion) is very common after a stroke. Sadly, it can often get in the way of speedy stroke recovery. However, beware of problems that mimic apathy. Depression, fatigue, and chronic pain after a stroke can look like apathy. Try to discover the root of the problem and discuss it with the stroke survivor’s doctor. Setting very specific, functional goals might help too.

6 | “Have you tried [certain] exercising?”

Whilst all the above help stroke survivor, most of them are tired of receiving ‘advice.’ Not everyone can achieve full functionality after stroke, for medical reasons. If the stroke survivor tells you that exercising didn’t help him recover completely, it’s time to move on.

7| “At least you don’t have a life-threatening disease.”

It’s not wise to compare conditions and assume that one is worse than another. Our conditions affect us all differently and comparing people and their health doesn’t offer anything positive. As you think about meaningful things to say, refrain from saying things like:

  • “Everything happens for a reason.”
  • “Maybe this was God’s plan.”
  • “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
  • “Just think positively.”
  • “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
  • “You’re so young to live like this.”

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