A stroke can happen to anyone at any time. It occurs when blood supply to the brain is interrupted, causing brain damage and other symptoms. For some stroke survivors, physical limitations linger on even after they are discharged from the hospital. As a result, many stroke survivors experience a loss of confidence, affecting their self-esteem and motivation. This may lead to low compliance to rehabilitation activities.
To address this, Stroke Support Station (S3) — a ground initiative to support stroke survivors and caregivers — launched the Re-learn and Enjoy Active Living (R.E.A.L.) programme to provide socio-emotional and psychological support in survivors’ recovery journey.
How the R.E.A.L. programme works
The R.E.A.L. programme, which started in 2015, is suitable for adult stroke survivors at any point of their stroke recovery journey, whether they have just been discharged from the hospital or have had stroke years ago. Caregivers are also welcome to join, regardless of how long they have cared for their loved ones. This programme aims to ease the recovery process using a four-pronged approach, which encompasses the physical, psychological, financial, and socio-emotional aspects of stroke survivors. It addresses these areas under four main pillars:
1. R.E.A.L. CARE
Due to lingering physical disabilities, stroke survivors may face emotional challenges such as a loss of identity and depression. In such cases, caregivers may get overwhelmed worrying not only about the health condition, but also the emotional health of their loved ones. The stroke care hotline, counselling, and caregiver support group then act as a shoulder for survivors and caregivers to lean on. Through the services, stroke survivors and caregivers can receive appropriate information and guidance for stroke support, empowering them to better manage their condition.
2. R.E.A.L. THERAPY
Every stroke survivor faces different kinds of challenges, depending on the severity of the stroke and their health condition. R.E.A.L therapy rehabilitation sessions are customised for each stroke survivor through a combination of conventional therapy and advanced technology.
Conventional therapy addresses the physical effects of a stroke so stroke survivors can lead a more active life and improve their general well-being as they gradually regain their functions.
Paired with advanced specialised training equipment such as the Anti Gravity Treadmill, Robo-Walk and Exoskeleton, stroke survivors can accelerate their therapy results.
The precise data feedback from advanced technologies can also help therapists to provide accurate guidance for each client.
3. R.E.A.L. WELLNESS
Taking the form of both physical and non-physical activities such as music, art and tai chi, group-based wellness classes stimulate creativity and enhance general fitness. The wellness programmes are aimed at providing recreational and social-emotional support for stroke survivors to rebuild confidence, independence and cognitive stimulation.
4. R.E.A.L. OUTREACH
Other than improving the rehabilitation process of stroke survivors, prevention of stroke is a crucial focus of the R.E.A.L programme. Partnerships with organisations, healthcare and educational institutions are in place to help raise awareness of stroke and its prevention to the general public. The outreach programme includes educational talks and corporate social responsibility projects across the island.
In 2019, R.E.A.L. exceeded its targets in improving physical recovery and the potential to reintegrate stroke survivors into the community. Through the years, R.E.A.L. has benefitted over 1,592 stroke survivors, caregivers and volunteers.
Active living for senior survivors
While the R.E.A.L. programme supports all adults, seniors face complex challenges, such as weaker functional results from therapy, which warrants special attention. Therapists and social workers involved in the programme are trained to meet the specific needs of seniors while preserving their dignity and quality of life.
Seniors at risk of being socially isolated due to disabilities or social issues receive special attention to benefit immensely from this programme. They are nurtured through the strong advocacy of active living, striving to be not only physically active, but also mentally resilient and socially engaged.
These opportunities to work with stroke survivors and caregivers also gave S3 a glimpse of the immense challenges faced both in the present moment and long-term future, strengthening S3’s conviction further to explore ways to serve this population better continually.
Be a part of the R.E.A.L. programme
The R.E.A.L. programme was funded by the Tote Board Community Health Fund (TBCHF). The fund supports social service agencies and non-profit organisations in running innovative programmes for the Community Care sector. Tote Board is a winner of Friends of Community Care Awards 2021.
“We are very pleased that through the Tote Board Community Healthcare Fund, the R.E.A.L. Programme was able to help restore the confidence of the stroke survivors and help them reintegrate back into society. Caregivers were also supported through the provision of socio-emotional support and fostered community bonding,” says Mr Neo Aik Xin, Manager, Development & Partnerships (Social), Tote Board.
Any person who is a stroke survivor or a caregiver of a stroke survivor is eligible to join S3 as a member. A free membership allows access to services under the R.E.A.L. Programme, based on the member’s needs and S3 team’s recommendations.