Having HOPE

From the desk of Carol G Winchester, MS SLP CCC

You can listen to this post in the player at the bottom of the page

Having HOPE Increases Your Recovery Chances Exponentially!

Facing a health situation can be devastating to the patient, caregiver, family member, or friend. Whether this situation is life-threatening, life-changing, or life-altering, one feels the effects of change, not by choice. Things may never be exactly as they were before because of something you must now deal with. Sadness, despair, shock, anger, confusion, and/or futility may be perfectly understandable reactions. The risk of getting stuck in any of these emotions is great unless you add HOPE to the list: Help, Optimism, Persistence/Patience, and Expectations. Write this word in all caps and put it in places of honor; on the refrigerator, taped to the bathroom mirror, on your car visor, or even written with a sharpie on your wrist. Remembering this acronym and what it stands for can bolster you up as you go through what may be one of the hardest times of your life.


Asking for help is not intuitive for most people. We like to think of ourselves as strong and independent forces within our worlds. I have always said that intelligent people know when to ask for help. When you experience the death of a loved one, have gone through a divorce, or even tried to raise more than one teenager at once, talking to a counselor can be a lifeline to sanity. Turning to your church or support group may have been the difference between handling life with grace or blowing up at the world around you. And now that you are experiencing a health situation, it is important to realize that you don’t have all the answers that you need, nor are you expected to. Knowing what you don’t know is vital in these situations. Whether you are the caregiver who needs basic daily care advice, the patient who is desperate to understand how to function with this malady, the family who wants to be supportive but doesn’t know what to say, or the friend who feels uncomfortable with this untimely situation, there is help for each of you.

The one problem that I see routinely is that one thinks that their particular situation, question, concern, issue, or reaction is silly or not worth discussing. Stop thinking that right now because every question is valid, every situation is different, and every person involved is important. The more help that you can receive, whether it’s related to Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Physician, Nurse, or Nurse Practitioner communication, ask one of your professionals to help you through the situation. Your Speech Pathologist might be able to call and get an answer from the Nurse Practitioner because they have a more direct line, or the Physical Therapist might be able to call the nurse about your medications. Any of the professionals would be happy to explain what they are doing, why, and how you can better react. We are a team, and our bottom line is to help you get through this health situation with the most positive outcome possible. JUST ASK!


Health situations are difficult to navigate from the legal ramifications of a health situation to the financial obligations that must continue during this sometimes very expensive time. Once you have gotten through your initial shock, the paperwork, networking, care decisions, and coordination can take up all your very precious time away from your loved one. I have seen time and time again where these situations take their toll on those responsible for navigating, as well as for the patient who may not be responding as quickly as they would like. This is when optimism must kick in to keep you moving forward. Healing takes time whether it’s from an injury, surgery, neurological insult, psychological event, or medication induced trauma.

If you think about how long it takes a paper cut to heal on your finger, approximately seven days to fully disappear, you can then extrapolate the seriousness of your health issue and timeline for healing. Being optimistic is not easy, but it is necessary. Those who are helping you through this time can play a big part in remaining optimistic. I’m not saying you can’t have a bad day as we all have bad days even without dealing with what you are going through. However, you must give yourself time to be upset or angry, let’s say from now until lunch, if you woke up mad at the world. Find something to do while you have your ‘pity party’, as I call my bad moods. Sit and watch your favorite show, eat a favorite food, listen to soothing music, or just yell at the wind. Do whatever moves you to accept that you are having a bad moment or day, and put it out into the universe so that you can make room for optimism to seep back in. The difference between positive outcomes and not-so-positive outcomes very often rests with this type of attitude. Choose optimism! I guarantee it’ll help you make it through with more sunshine in your life.


I have always felt that one cannot have a persistent attitude without having a big dose of patience. One drives the other and both are vital during this time. Let’s put this into the perspective of breaking your arm. You immediately get a cast on the broken arm and the healing begins. You can’t rush it, change how fast it is healing, or manage to get that cast off before the time is right as you aren’t in control. You have been given a set of instructions on lifting and moving the arm and are reminded that anything that you do outside of those instructions could affect this healing process and the future use of your arm. When you get the cast off, finally, you may have been enrolled in Physical Therapy to strengthen the arm and gain your mobility back to where it was. You would not even consider going out and pitching a baseball game the day you got the cast off, nor would you weight-lift immediately.

Healing takes time. Unfortunately, some of our hurting or broken body parts are not as easy to imagine as the broken arm, and the directions and/or precautions may not be as obvious. That does not, however, make them any less important! A great example of this concerns the expertise of the Speech Pathologist. You may have been told to adhere to an altered diet while your throat heals or regains strength, or perhaps exercises have been prescribed to regain mobility in those body parts responsible for articulation, chewing, or swallowing. Finally, you may have been taught techniques to keep food or liquid from dripping into your airway which leads to your lungs. As a huge percentage of patients don’t feel this dripping or aspiration, one may not think these techniques are important and you may get tired of doing them every time you eat. However, just as with the arm, giving up on the advice of the Speech Pathologist can affect how you talk, eat, or swallow for the rest of your life. Not having the patience to let the healing take place and trusting that this professional knows how to make it happen can be a huge mistake. Persistence to do what is asked of you and the patience to let the process happen in its time frame will pay big dividends in the end.


The final piece of the HOPE puzzle is expectations. Often, the expectations of the patient, family, loved ones, and/or friends are unrealistic for the moment in which everyone is living. Just as going on a diet and losing 25 pounds in a month is unrealistic and sets one up for failure, so does comparing the patient to anyone else or Dr Google. As we have discussed, healing takes time, and every person has their own set of circumstances and timetable. In the old days the word was that if you didn’t recover from a stroke in three months that you never would. If you didn’t gain all your mobility from a hip fracture or hip replacement in a month that you never would. If you were still confused after six weeks following a head injury, you would never get it back. We now know that these timetables were untrue and were detrimental to the hope that patients had and that they frequently just gave up when they hit these milestones.

Unfortunately, we still see some healthcare professionals doling out these timelines as measures of success thinking that they are going to encourage the patient. It does the opposite. The professionals that you work with can help you to set realistic expectations, celebrate the gains, design programs to achieve the next level of success, and make sure that everyone understands where the patient is and where the patient is headed next. If you have a Debbie-Downer giving you absolute deadlines that don’t seem to make sense, take what is being  said with a grain of salt, get a second, third or fourth opinion, and find those realistic goals that reflect your specific situation.

HOPE is essential to the overall health of everyone involved, whether we are the one experiencing the health situation, or we are trying to manage our stress as the bystander. Take yourself through the steps of asking for help, remaining optimistic and persistent, having a big ol’ dose of patience, and managing those expectations. Establish a relationship with your healthcare professionals and let them guide you through the situation with greater ease by sharing what’s on your mind. We can’t fix what we don’t know so be sure to tell us, more than once if necessary. That’s what we are here for!

Listen to this episode

Scroll to top