AFTER two strokes paralysed the right side of his body and affected his speech, retired accountant Wong Siew Cheong grew despondent and did not go for therapy for three years.
But things improved last year after the 73-year-old joined a pilot project called Life (Learn, Interact, Flourish, Engage) After Stroke.
Eighteen stroke survivors gathered for weekly meetings at a senior care centre in Serangoon to learn about their conditions, provide peer support and take part in social activities such as cooking, art and music therapy.
Mr Wong's son, music producer Wong Ping Loong, who is in his 30s, said interacting with other stroke survivors in the three-hour sessions motivated his father to go back to physiotherapy, as well as speech and other treatments.
The elder Mr Wong has also improved his diet, cutting back on chocolates and sweet food.
"After an art therapy session, he started drawing and expressed his feelings through pictures - something we hadn't seen from him before," the younger Mr Wong told The Straits Times. "(The session) also allowed my mother to connect with other caregivers."
Life After Stroke was started by the Singapore National Stroke Association (SNSA) together with National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Health last October to support and empower stroke survivors in the community.
The 12-week pilot was deemed successful by SNSA and NTUC Health as well as participants.
Life After Stroke will thus become a permanent feature at NTUC Health's Silver Circle Senior Care Centre in Serangoon Central from this Saturday.
All 18 stroke survivors will stay on the programme, which will take place monthly instead of weekly.
New referrals may be accepted and the free programme can take in up to 30 participants.
Dr Deidre De Silva, president of SNSA and a senior consultant neurologist at the National Neuroscience Institute, said the association came up with the programme to cater for what it believes are the needs of stroke patients.
"Many go for rehabilitation after they are discharged from hospital and then they are left alone. We wanted to help with the psycho-social and emotional aspects of having survived a stroke, which are often neglected by routine medical services."
The programme is aimed at tacking the issues commonly faced by stroke survivors, such as mood disorders, anxiety, isolation and guilt arising from the perceived burden they place on their caregivers.
SNSA is in talks to expand Life After Stroke to western areas of Singapore, in collaboration with NTUC Health.
The elder Mr Wong recommends the programme to other stroke survivors and their caregivers. "I really enjoy going to Life After Stroke meetings because the volunteers are warm and helpful and they encourage me in my recovery," he said.
"I've made new friends and learnt many things about my condition."
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