"Please, don't help me!"
By the time a patient leaves the hospital, usually he/she has been helped so much that they have forgotten (or unlearned) how to make decisions.
At home it continues. The recovering patient receives more help. Enough help to make the most confident person feel inferior. But, of course, all this is done with the best of intentions, meant to assist rehabilitation.
The World Health Organization defines rehabilitation the following way: Rehabilitation of people with disabilities is a process aimed at enabling them to reach and maintain their optimal physical, sensory, intellectual, psychological and social functional levels. Rehabilitation provides disabled people with the tools they need to attain independence and self-determination.
How can anyone attain independence and self-determination if they are treated like a child?
Let’s look at a child. The first years are learning – about the world. Then about their body, and about themselves. Still a lot of help is required. But in preparation for an independent life the child is given enough room to make his/her own decisions. As the child grows older the help turns into support. Apart from a few “helicopter-parents”, most would agree that he/she now needs confidence, in order to gain independence and self-determination.
It is (or should be) similar for people in rehabilitation. At some stage “help” should be replaced by “support”. Having to ask for help is admitting one’s inadequate abilities. “Helping” without being asked also means taking away a learning experience. You probably can relate to the situation when you’ve learned a new and challenging board game, you had to concentrate very hard. Someone behind you was watching. You came very close to finishing the game, when suddenly the guy behind you leans over your shoulder and, with a couple of swift moves, finishes the game for you (don’t you hate those guys?).
When we learn something new we have to concentrate. Children and old people require more effort for this concentration. For some people who have had a stroke, or some other disease, it is even harder.
One stroke survivor related quite a fitting story He did some handy work at home. It was something he would have done without effort before his stroke. Not so this time. He had to concentrate hard, plus he had to figure out how to overcome his physical limitations. Fortunately his wife was right behind him. Unfortunately he didn’t like this.
The first time we talked about it, all he told me was that he was getting irritated with his wife standing behind him, and her helpful comments. He had calmly asked her to leave him alone.
When we talked the second time he told me that they had a verbal argument and that he told his wife to go away and leave him alone (in no uncertain terms). His explanation/excuse was: “I just like to do things my way”.
This is only one example which shows that people who have a brain injury of some sort get easily flustered. The best help they can get is time. Time to figure things out for themselves. What other people think is help, in form of a simple explanation, can confuse them, and make them feel like they are under pressure.
Sometimes, “Please, don’t help me”!
Please click here to go to the Stroke Mentor's page.