Golf tourney and a dinner helps raise $332,000 for the Parkinson's fight

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung (left) stressed the importance of tackling loneliness to slow down the onset of Parkinson's. PHOTO: PARKINSON SOCIETY SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - A golf tournament and dinner held at the Orchid Country Club on Friday helped Parkinson Society Singapore raise $332,000 for those suffering from the disease, as the charity marked its 25th year.

The funds raised will be used for physiotherapy sessions, patient welfare and the expansion of the charity's Parkinson centre in Bishan to include a new counselling room and two new therapy areas.

Proceeds will also support events to raise awareness of the disease, as well as the charity's operations.

Parkinson's is a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system and parts of the body controlled by the nerves.

About three in 1,000 people above 50 suffer from it, and the number is expected to increase to more than 100,000 by 2030.

The charity has already started expansion works at the Bishan centre with funding support from the Ministry of Health and Community Silver Trust. It aims to raise $400,000 by the end of the year.

The centre opened in 2013, and it is expanding its premises as it has maxed out the space.

About 250 people with Parkinson's come to the centre each week.

Nurse Carol Ng, 57, is caregiver to her husband Melvyn Chiang, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's more than 10 years ago.

Ms Ng said he used to be active but now has developed dystonia in his neck muscles, where his neck is mostly bent forward or flexed.

Mr Chiang, 61, retired from his job as a nurse when he came down with Parkinson's.

"It takes patience caring for him. I try to let him take his time and not rush him," said Ms Ng. "It's good to encourage him, so he doesn't feel down, and to keep him occupied."

She added that she involves him in family activities with their two sons, aged 25 and 29, to keep his spirits up. Mr Chiang goes for physiotherapy and stays active with gardening and singing sessions.

Ms Ng said it helps to be connected through group chats with other caregivers and people with Parkinson's who also get support from Parkinson Society Singapore.

The charity holds weekly yoga and karaoke sessions, among other activities, to engage people with Parkinson's disease with physical and social activities.

It has also trained staff at 22 St Luke's Eldercare centres to conduct Parkinson's workshops on physiotherapy and exercise.

In his speech at Friday's dinner, charity president Louis Tan said studies have shown that there is a 50 per cent increased likelihood of survival for participants with stronger social relationships, especially those with more complex social integration.

"What is interesting is that the magnitude of this effect is comparable with quitting smoking and exceeds many well known risk factors for mortality such as obesity and physical inactivity," he said.

Speaking at the charity dinner, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, who was guest of honour, stressed the importance of tackling loneliness to slow down the onset of Parkinson's.

"Make sure all those people who are vulnerable take their medication, get good nutrition and social interaction. Loneliness is very saddening. Loneliness is equivalent to giving you 15 cigarettes a day," he said.

"And finally, we should exercise."

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