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People are funny, and I don’t mean in a ha-ha sort of way. They could be neurotic, bi-polar, obsessive-compulsive, anxious, or agoraphobic, just to name a few types. Some of the ones who came to visit me had their own type: dysfunctional-when-meeting-a-stroke-patient.

Even though they had good intentions, in all fairness to me, some of them said and did things that were downright insulting, if I took the comments and body language personally. But I didn’t ever, for those people who took the time and came to visit me.

In all fairness to them, how could they know the right responses from the wrong? What it really comes down to is this: How do you speak to a stroke patient whose had her life turned around in a 180-degree spin?

I made a list of the top ten things you should never say or do to a stroke patient, and I, too, have been guilty of most of them before having my stroke when I visited stroke patients. So having set the record straight, here goes.

Saying good girl, good boy, good job

Those are phrases you should say to your pets when they are being rewarded with a “Pup-Peroni” or Doritos’ chips. If you say them to me, I am not really being a good “anything.” I’m just sayin’. IT’S SORT OF CONDESCENDING.

Talking loudly

People have a habit of speaking loudly to foreigners and the sick. Just because they are from somewhere else, speaking loudly to a foreigner will not help get your point across. There is no hearing problem involved. The same thing applies to me. HOW DOES SHOUTING HELP?

Talking slowly

Talking slowly to a foreigner might be an asset. But talking slowly to me makes me feel mentally disabled. How would YOU like it if someone said, “How — are — you — feeling — today?” If I could, (and I wasn’t able to then), I would have talked quickly in response, possibly making them change their way of speaking. I REPEAT–HOW WOULD YOU LIKE IT?

Making faces at me

Stroke patients are difficult to understand at times, but please don’t squint, or turn your mouth to one side, or wrinkle your nose at me. Just ask me to repeat my statement, and if you still can’t understand, ask the question in a different way. After all, you’re the one with a full brain! SO USE IT!

Talking over me

I mostly listen, but when I get up the courage to speak, let me do it. Don’t interrupt me in the middle. In other words, LET ME FINISH!

Completing your sentence

Some people find the right word choice instantly, but it takes me a few seconds more. So please stop trying to fill in the blank. WAIT! I’LL GET IT!

Giving me lists of things to do


If you give me a list five or more things to do, I’ll may miss one. My brain is going, but the parts that are dead…well, simple died and there’s no hope of getting them back. Did you ever hear that heavy drinkers lose brain cells and the cells won’t be replaced? Same thing. YOU HEAR THAT, HEAVY DRINKERS?

Ignoring me as if I’m invisible

Once in a while, at Rehab Y, I would see doctors on the outside. If I’m waiting at a new doctor’s office, for example, staring right at some person who’s in charge, the person invariably stares at my friend to find out what my friend wants, forcing me to shout and look like an idiot–which I am not. I shouted several times in person but even more on the phone. Some of the people just don’t listen and say their “shpiel” regardless if I object. Covered in the previous post The First Phone Call, aka What Should We Do About Outsourcing?, “FOR CHRISTSAKE, I HAD A F***ING STROKE. GIMME A BREAK!” (Sorry to all in the PC crowd).   

Saying I’m not moving fast enough

Once in a while, people will say something to the effect, “Could I get by you?” and start moving before they even hear the answer. Their rhetorical question, because that’s what it really is, a few times cost me my balance. WHY ARE PEOPLE IN SUCH A HURRY IN THE NURSING HOME?

Hanging up on me

A lot of operators hang up on me. They are nameless and they take advantage of that fact. But it doesn’t help me. WHY WON’T THEY WAIT?

———-

Now that I’ve off-handedly offended most of you, remember–I said or did the same things myself to stroke patients because I never “walked in their shoes.” So now, do you feel better?
Joyce Hoffman

Joyce Hoffman

Joyce Hoffman is one of the world's top 10 stroke bloggers according to the Medical News Today. You can find the original post and other blogs Joyce wrote in Tales of a Stroke Survivor. (https://talesofastrokesurvivor.blog)
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7 thoughts on “The Top Ten Things You Should Never Say or Do to a Stroke Patient

  1. Wow – that was inspiring Joyce! My mother (84) had a stroke in June 2011 and is recovering slow but surely. Our family knows that she will never be 100% but we are doing all that we can to help her succeed to the best of her abilities. Your top ten list was an eye opener as we are guilty of some of them. Thanks for the eye opening list. They are valuable coming straight from someone who knows what it is like. We wish you the best in your recovery. God bless you!

  2. All my best to your mother. And don't feel bad about doing or saying the same things I've mentioned. As I said in my blog, "I said or did the same things myself to stroke patients because I never 'walked in their shoes.'" Spread the word! And thank you for writing!

  3. I write everything from MY point of view as the stroke survivor, so I'm glad that all of you didn't take offense at my words and rather learn from them. Three cheers for the learners! I hope your friend continues to get better each day. Thanks for reading my blog.

  4. Thank You Joyce. Very helpful list and I'm guilty of a few of these and appreciate your candor. My step father has recently had a series of strokes and I found this helpful. I hope You get better everyday!

  5. You forgot DO NOT take over a task that the stroke person is doing just because they look like they cannot do it well enough. I remember one time I was having trouble opening a packet of biscuits (wrap rage) and was using a knife to break through the packaging. A woman, who periodically treated me as inferior, grabbed the packet and said you will cut yourself and proceeded to open the packet. It was humiliating and insulting. I am not a child.

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