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10 Things You Should Never Say or Do to a Stroke Patient (According to a Stroke Patient)

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People are funny, and I don’t mean in a ha-ha sort of way. They could be neurotic, bipolar, 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 even, 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 who’s 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.

1. 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.

2. 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?

3. 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?

4. 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!

5. 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!

6. 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!

7. 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?

8. Ignoring me as if I’m invisible

Once in awhile, 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 “spiel” regardless if I object. “FOR CHRIST SAKE, I HAD A F***ING STROKE. GIMME A BREAK!” (Sorry to all in the PC crowd).

9. Saying I’m not moving fast enough

Once in awhile, 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?

10. 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?

About the Author

Joyce Hoffman, unfortunately had a stroke in April 2009. Always seeking out the positive in everything, Joyce started a blog entitled: The Tales of A Stroke Patient in August 2010 using only her one hand to type, since her dominant right was paralyzed from the stroke.
She goes through her story to give patients and caregivers the confidence to stand up for themselves, despite the indifference and negativity that confronted her daily. She tells it all from the patient’s point of view, hoping that healthcare professionals will take advantage from her thoughts. You can read her blog here and follow her on Facebook.

1 COMMENT

  1. operators? are those call center agents? because if they are, they do have what they call as, “AHT” or their average handling time. So in that case they need to be quick in assisting their customers in order to reach their AHT. If not, they won’t be able to meet their metrics which could affect their performance. :)

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