Offering & Accepting Help

Following stroke, we know only too well how much help and support sadly we have to rely on for such a long time. We realise how difficult it is for our friends and family to know when and how to step in, once we are able to try more for ourselves.

There is also another side, one that possibly we as stroke survivors have not given so much thought to. Some people really do want to support us, offer us help but they do not know when or how – the etiquette of helping.

One time that particularly comes to mind is the period of Christmas and New Year, the party season. When does someone intervene and offer us help? Then if you are honest, does it make a difference who offers help? For example, I still need help with cutting up food on my plate. Most people are happy to do this for me, and I’m most grateful, yet done in the wrong way I feel so on show and uncomfortable. It is the same act of kindness, so why would I feel this way suddenly?  It is also about how things are carried out. This perhaps again is why it is too daunting for some to offer us help. Not that they don’t care, but they fear getting it wrong.

If we are socialising and drinks and nibbles are on offer, I have to make a choice either to decline and mix with people or accept and sit in one place, in the hope people may realise and in turn join me. Either way is not totally ideal.

I think I would say if you see an able-bodied person struggling with something, ideally you wouldn’t think twice; you would naturally in your normal tone of voice ask if they needed any help. If we as disabled appear to be experiencing difficulty, please see us as normal too and talk to us in an adult voice and ask the same question, in the same way. Respect and accept our answer. We are still human, therefore still very individual. Some of us are grateful for as much help as possible having made the effort to venture out. Others are more stubborn and will not accept help until absolutely necessary. Please, please, however, do not just decide for us, by this I mean take an arm and help us cross a road without asking, push our wheelchair without asking or take our plate and start to cut up our food. You may mean well but we have lost too much control of our lives and ourselves already, we cannot cope with that type of kindness, thank you.

Sometimes you may offer and the reply could be short, it doesn’t mean you are wrong in asking it could simply mean we are still struggling to accept our current situation, do not let this prevent you from offering others help in the future.

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