The Stroke Network, Inc )
View from a Caregiver: When to Help

By Nancy Fiduk



When you have children you have to decide, do I let them attempt this themselves or do I help them? Do I stand back and let them struggle, or do I step in and help them out, perhaps holding them back from their own independence. I always had a tough time deciding this with each of my children, but it was never as tough as when my daughter had her stroke at age 11. I was constantly trying to determine when I should help her, or push her, or when I should just step back and let her think things through.


Before her stroke, my daughter had such a passion for drawing and would often draw for several hours every day. She had a CVA on the left side which means she lost the use of her right side, and consequently, her drawing hand. That night, after she had her stroke, I cried for many reasons, but the main thought that kept going through my head was that she would lose her ability to draw. I was worried that she would still have that passion but never be able to take pencil to paper again.


About 5 months after her stroke she started learning to write with her left hand and was not doing very well. She struggled to write each of the letters. I was saddened as I thought, if she can not write, is she ever going to be able to draw? This is where I had to make a tough decision. Do I ask her draw to something? Make her do something that she is probably afraid to try on her own? Or do I continue to wait it out and hope she begins to draw on her own. I missed seeing her draw her pictures, proudly showing them off to anyone who will look.


I struggled with this thought for days. Finally I decided - that’s it, I am going to do it. I am going to ask her to draw me something. So, the next time she was practicing her ABC’s, I asked her to draw a picture. She said “I can’t.” I told her “You don’t know that until you try. Try to draw something.” She just sat there and stared at me with such hate in her eyes. The minutes passed and she continued to sit there.


I told her to draw anything, draw a person, draw a house, anything, but she just sat there getting more upset. Silent tears ran down her cheek. She was finally angry enough and wanting to end the stand off that she drew a simple house and than went up to her room and slammed the door. Did I just do the right thing or did I push her too hard? I cried as I stood there holding her little drawing wondering if I should have left her alone. I just wish someone would come and gave me the answers.


Well I started this, I opened this can of worms and will need to see it through. I couldn’t just give up. The next day, I once again sat her down and asked her to draw something. I waited for her to glare at me but to my surprise, she quickly took the pen and paper and drew a wolf. She gave it to me and then went back to watching TV. I held this beautiful picture and cried again. But this time, they were tears of happiness. She did it. She drew a picture.


Luckily that was just the beginning. From that day on, she continued to draw little pictures. Eventually the pictures became more detailed and larger. Within a few months she was back to drawing as well as she had before her stroke, only now with her left hand. Today, three years later, her passion and talent is as strong as ever. Not only is she drawing all the time, her drawings are better than before her stroke.


So for me, this turned out to be the right thing to do. I wish I could say all the things I made her do turned out so well but I have made mistakes. I have helped when I should have stood back, pushed her to do things she was not ready to do. I do not think there will ever be an easy answer. As a parent, or any caregiver, all we can do is what we hope is the best for our child or for that matter anyone we are trying to help.


Copyright © January 2008

The Stroke Network, Inc.

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