Ageing society

Robotic glove that aids stroke recovery among services offered by Hong Kong care centre

Christian Family Service Centre runs HK$7.8 million programme targeting patients not covered by public rehabilitation services during their ‘golden recovery period’ immediately after hospital discharge

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 9:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 3:38pm

When 57-year-old Ng suffered a stroke in May, he thought he only had one option – have his wife quit her job to take care of him as he was not eligible for government-subsidised rehabilitation services.

The public housing resident, who preferred to be known only by his surname, was temporarily paralysed on the left side of his body, and unable to walk properly from the stroke.

As Ng is not yet 65, he does not qualify for subsidised day care services for the elderly. Hiring carers or going to private day care centres were also not affordable options for him.

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“I couldn’t walk at all by myself. So I was lucky that it happened during the summer because it meant that at least my 13-year-old son would be able to take care of me [during his school holidays], and my wife wouldn’t have to quit her job [immediately],” Ng said.

A month after Ng was discharged from hospital, he was fortunate enough to be among the first batch of beneficiaries of a new three-year rehabilitation programme launched by the Christian Family Service Centre, a non-profit organisation. The plan is supported by donations from charity Keswick Foundation.

The HK$7.8 million programme at the Lively Elderly Day Training Centre in Wong Tai Sin aims to help patients recover from strokes or bone fractures from the moment they are discharged from hospitals. The centre calls this window a “golden recovery period” where chances of successful rehabilitation are highest.

The programme aims to help 1,600 people in the next three years. It launched in June and has benefited 47 patients so far.

“The first six to 12 months are the most important for a better and faster recovery,” William Kwong Lik-pui, the centre’s physiotherapist and senior service manager, said.

“But more importantly, we want to reduce chances of hospitalisation again as the risks of falling or encountering accidents at home for stroke patients can be high,” Kwong said.

Under the programme, Ng is only required to pay 10 per cent of the total fees for his six-month rehabilitation.

Services include physiotherapy and speech therapy sessions as well as group activities for the elderly.

One of the highlights of the programme is a new rehabilitation system involving a robotic glove which helps patients like Ng improve muscle strength and hand-eye coordination through computer simulations.

According to Kwong, research showed that there was a trend of younger people suffering from stroke, so Ng’s case could just be one of many more in the city. For those aged 65 and above, the programme also fills a gap in the long wait for subsidised community care services for the elderly.

Government figures showed that there was a total of 9,081 applicants on the waiting list for various community care services, with an average waiting time of around 11 to 13 months, as of October.

Kwong said the centre’s programme also helped lighten the burden of carers at home, in a city with a rapidly ageing population where nursing and elderly care services are overwhelmed.

Last month, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong told the Post that the government was “seriously considering” a proposal to subsidise the hiring of domestic helpers for single elderly residents in public housing.