The Power of Encouragement

How motivating words help patients recover

Driving to work. Washing dishes. Going to the bodega. It’s easy to take mundane tasks for granted, until you can’t do them. When recovering from a stroke, hip or knee surgery, a heart attack, motorcycle accident or other intense injury or surgery, it’s normal to feel confidence and hope one minute, anxiety or fear the next. After all, your home, which was once a refuge, may suddenly feel like a prison. Stairs might seem like Kilimanjaro.

What you want is someone who will encourage you to keep doing your exercises when you don’t feel like it…to gently pump you up and challenge you to keep going, and to cheer you on one milestone at a time. Madeleine, a physical therapist at MJHS with 40 years of experience, does this all the time. She provides a steady stream of encouragement every day, building up both the muscles and the determination of those she treats. Her goal is to help patients regain as much independence as possible. And she does this with her patients in the comfort and privacy of their own homes through the MJHS Road to Recovery program.

“There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all plan,” said Madeleine. If a patient is recovering from a stroke, speech therapy is probably a must. For a hip replacement, physical therapy is key. And for both, occupational therapy may be needed to help a patient transition back into daily life.

When a patient needs more than one type of therapy from MJHS, the therapists work together, “because setting joint goals with our patients (that often includes a patient’s close family or friends), no matter how small, can be a powerful motivator for everyone,” Madeleine says. “Celebrating the smallest victories — like walking 10 steps today instead of five — definitely helps hasten the recovery process, encourages the patient and feels so rewarding to the rehab team.”

One of Madeleine’s former knee surgery patients was a 74-year-old woman who ran her own business. If her patient couldn’t commute, she couldn’t work and support herself. So, for weeks, Madeleine went to the woman’s home to help her get back on her feet. They practiced stretching. Putting weight on each leg. Going up and down stairs. Walking to the front door. Each step was a triumph and a step closer to pre-established goals. One day, Madeleine saw her patient board a bus. The patient’s face lit up. Madeleine beamed. They shared a moment. It was awesome and awe-inspiring.

Madeleine and other MJHS therapists know that recovery can take a while. They see every day how positive encouragement propels everyone — from the patient, to family and friends, as well as the individual therapist — to try harder, feel better and, most importantly, recapture a sense of normalcy and self-reliance. That resolve, that spirit, that motivation is so much of what the MJHS Road to Recovery offers and delivers. That’s the power of encouragement.

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