Support centre opens for stroke survivors and their caregivers

A new wellness centre for stroke survivors and their caregivers officially opened its doors yesterday.

The new Stroke Support Station has a few full-time staff, and relies heavily on its 20-strong volunteer base to help out with activities, which are held three times a week.

These include horticulture, as well as specially modified taiji and sports.

Both caregivers and stroke survivors can also attend group sharing sessions and pick up techniques to help them relieve stress.

The centre, which has been in operation since January, is located in the Enabling Village in Redhill, which also houses Singapore's first inclusive pre-school.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who was at the opening ceremony, commended the centre for looking beyond traditional sources of manpower to meet its needs.

"The high levels of involvement of trained volunteers, including past stroke survivors and caregivers, could pave the way towards a more cost-effective and sustainable model of care," he said.

In 2013, more than 6,600 people in Singapore suffered from strokes, which occur when part of the brain gets damaged because blood supply is interrupted.

Last week, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat suffered a stroke during a Cabinet meeting. He is still in intensive care, Mr Gan said yesterday.

Up to two-thirds of stroke patients will not recover fully, and may suffer from lasting effects such as cognitive impairment or difficulty in moving around.

Many of the new centre's patients are referred to it from places such as the nearby National University Hospital or St Luke's Hospital.

The centre does not provide physiotherapy, although the activities it organises help stroke survivors train their fine motor skills.

It serves more as a space for them to meet people who have been through a similar ordeal.

"There are day rehabilitation centres, but there is only so much that clinicians can do," said Dr Kelvin Phua, independent director of the Stroke Support Station. "We complement them by providing social support for stroke survivors."

One such survivor is Mr Tony Thow, who had a stroke in 2010.

"I was playing mahjong with my friends, and suddenly I had no strength on my left side," he recalled. "I couldn't stand."

Mr Thow, who lives alone, was taught how to care for himself again, and now visits the Stroke Support Station thrice a week.

"We sing songs, sometimes, and do taiji," he said. "I do feel more confident nowadays."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 18, 2016, with the headline 'Support centre opens for stroke survivors and their caregivers'. Print Edition | Subscribe