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Fostering Independence via Six Key Affirmations
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In the last section, we discussed helping clients the adapting the home technique in order to increase confidence and safety in daily functioning.
In this section, we will discuss Affirmation Statements.
Harry, age 70, had suffered a stroke six months previously, and had recently begun living with his daughter Ellen. The stroke had left Harry with some right side weakness, impaired vision, and mild aphasia. Ellen stated, "My father has been so depressed lately that he hardly gets out of bed. When he does get out of bed, he won’t talk to me. When Dad first got home, he could pretty much dress himself and feed himself, but now if I don’t do it he’ll just sit staring at his clothes or his food!"
When I spoke to Harold, he stated, "I just can’t do the things I used to anymore. I feel like a useless old man. What’s the use of trying at all?" I decided to introduce the post-stroke affirmations technique to Harold, and over the course of several sessions we developed ten affirmations together that focused on reminding Harold of his own abilities and on improving his relationship with his caregiving daughter, Ellen.
Technique: 10 Affirmation Statements
♦ Affirmation # 1
The first affirmation that Harold and I came up with is "Don’t ask Ellen for anything I can do myself." To begin discussing this affirmation with Harold, I first asked him to construct a list with me of all of the things he could do for himself, even if they were now more difficult or more time consuming. An additional positive effect of constructing this list with Harold, of course, is that he was pleasantly surprised with just how much he was still able to do.
I stated, "Anytime you find yourself starting to ask Ellen to do something for you, think back to the list. If the task is on your list of things you know you can do, even if it takes extra effort, repeat to yourself ‘This is something I am capable of doing on my own. I don’t need to ask for Ellen to do it for me, I can do it myself.’ Repeat this affirmation several times until you feel positive about your decision."
♦ Affirmation # 2
The second affirmation that Harold and I created is "I thank Ellen each time she provides assistance to me." I encouraged Harold to repeat this affirmation to himself several times a day, and any time he thanked Ellen for doing something to help him. I stated to Harold, "This affirmation can help remind you that although you need help, you are capable of expressing your gratitude for Ellen’s help."
♦ Affirmation # 3
In addition to focusing on independent tasks and saying thank you, a third affirmation that Harold suggested was "when Ellen suggests we go shopping or go out to eat, I make every effort to go." Harold stated in one of our more recent sessions, "I can tell Ellen needs to go out more, but she doesn’t want to leave me. So I think I should be reminding myself to do my best to go out with her."
As part of our conversation about this affirmation, Harold and I also discussed ways he could encourage Ellen to have her own space and encouraged her to do things on her own. Harold decided to speak with a friend of his about coming to stay with him once a week, so that Ellen and her husband could go out on a date night.
♦ Affirmation # 4
A fourth affirmation which I discussed with Harold is "I do my best not to complain about my stroke or my limitations." Clearly, asking Harold to repeat this affirmation to himself encouraged him to be aware of complain behavior. Harold stated, "I’ve really been trying to get away from always talking about how hard my recovery has been to Ellen and others. And it’s funny, but when I’m not complaining about it, I’m just not thinking about my handicaps as much!"
♦ Affirmation # 5
A fifth affirmation Harold found helpful was "I try on my own to improve my skills to improve my quality of life and Ellen’s quality of life." I encouraged Harold to use this affirmation when he found himself in the middle of a challenging self-care task, or when he became upset by setbacks in his physical therapy.
♦ Affirmation # 6
In addition to focusing on independent tasks, saying thank you, making an effort to go out, not complaining, and improving skills, a sixth affirmation Harold and I discussed was "I try to never feel sorry for myself, and I do my best to keep my sense of humor." I stated to Harold, "it may be cliché, but laughter really is the best medicine. Do whatever it takes to keep you laughing. You might try reading the comics page on a regular basis, or watching a humorous TV program, or even invite Ellen to join you in recalling funny family memories."
♦ Affirmation # 7
A final affirmation which I discussed with Harold is "I express my appreciation of my daughter through giving her compliments and telling her I love her." Clearly, this affirmation helped Harold remind himself that he could improve Ellen’s life and his own by increasing the attention he paid to her appearance or small things Ellen did for him. Harold and I discussed some simple compliments Ellen might appreciate. Harold stated, "Ellen has this one sweater that makes her look really nice. I think I could manage to notice when she wears it and tell her how nice it makes her look."
Since Harold was still able to read, I created a large-type printout of his chosen affirmations which he could post next to his bed as a way to remind himself each night and morning of the affirmations he had chosen to help improve his own life and the life of his family. For clients with a significant visual deficit or difficulty comprehending written language because of a stroke, I often help them to record a spoken version of their affirmations on an easy to use tape recorder, so that they can play the audio version of their affirmations several times a day.
Think of your Harold. Would discussing a list of affirmations be helpful for him or her?
In this section, we have discussed the Affirmation Statements technique.
In the next section, we will discuss four core concepts of regaining normalcy after a stroke. These four core concepts are understanding dressing apraxia, the structured dressing technique, the energy management technique, and rebuilding physical intimacy.
What are seven focus areas for affirmations you might use with a client recovering from a stroke? To select and enter your answer go to .