We know connecting with others affected by stroke is often the most important thing in helping to rebuild life after stroke. And groups across the country provide this vital support to stroke survivors and carers.
Although they've been unable to meet face-to-face recently, they've found all sorts of ways to stay in touch remotely - from online video calls and social media groups, to newsletters and good old-fashioned phone calls! Stroke survivors, volunteers and staff share what they've been up to:
Sussex Stroke Support Virtual Choir
Volunteer, Carol Boydell, tells us about setting up a virtual choir:
'Following my stroke in 2015, I struggled with my words. My Stroke Association Coordinator, Marie White, was setting up a new choir and invited me. After a few meetings, I could tell the difference – I could form words and had much more confidence.
After lockdown, Marie and I were talking about how much we missed everyone, so we decided to hold the choir on Zoom [an online video call service]. Before I knew it, I had 43 faces smiling at me from my computer screen!
We also have new members and people from other stroke groups wanting to join. We've now opened the choir up to anyone who wants to come from the Stroke Association.
Singing is not only excellent speech therapy, but it's good for your wellbeing. I've had lots of positive feedback from people who've attended our virtual choir, saying how grateful they are that they can socialise again in safety - they feel happier following our meetings. I'm really happy they're benefiting from the joys of singing!'
Deeside Stroke Exercise Group
Instead of their usual face-to-face exercises classes, the group have been keeping active on Zoom instead. At the start of each session, there's always time for everyone to catch up, before Anna, their physiotherapist, starts talking them through and demonstrating chair-based and weight-bearing exercises for rehabilitation.
'We wanted to keep our classes going because regular exercise is good for all of us and because we enjoy it,' says group lead, Eric Sinclair. 'They've helped to give us some continuity, keep us in contact with one another and stay active at a challenging time.'
Neath Port Talbot Stroke Group
The group's volunteers send out regular goody bags to their members. These have included food, afternoon tea, mindfulness paint-by-numbers canvases and many more activities, which members can then chat about on Zoom. One goody bag contained sunflower seeds - and so the sunflower race began!
'The sunflower challenge is great as it's given me something to focus on,' says stroke survivor, Phil Thomas. 'We've been sending each other photos and everyone has got involved.
'We've really come together and are like a family. We speak via Zoom daily with different challenges and games organised. If you have a bad day, there's always someone to chat to and help. The parcels they send us are a fantastic pick-me-up too, and always seem to come at the right time. I just hope my sunflower is the winner!'
Bromsgrove Life After Stroke Centre:
Although we've paused all activities at our Life After Stroke Centre, our staff are keeping the community connected remotely instead.
'We've supported almost half of our centre users to chat with other members through new technologies, like WhatsApp and Zoom, which they probably wouldn't have considered doing a few months ago!' says Activities Manager, Nicola Miller. 'We also offer daily or weekly wellbeing phone calls. Both the video and phone calls are helping people to feel less isolated and put smiles on their faces.'
Stroke survivor, Riyaz Mohammad, is enjoying the regular phone and online catch-ups. 'It means a lot to me to stay in contact with friends and also receive updates from the centre,' says Riyaz. 'If I have any problems, I know that I can speak to someone.'
Rob Willetts added: 'Connecting online is allowing me to continue my rehabilitation with the group, where I feel secure.'
Nicola and her team also run activity sessions online. 'People trying virtual sessions they wouldn't usually attend at the centre and making new friendships,' says Nicola. 'Carers and partners, who don't normally attend the centre, are also getting the opportunity to join in and connect with other carers.'
Foyle Stroke Support Group:
The Foyle Group are staying connected by getting creative. "I know how much members get out of attending the group, connecting and sharing with each other, so I send them all monthly activity packs to ensure they carry on getting support,' says volunteer Michelle Crawford.
'We fully embraced Make May Purple. We made amazing purple facemasks, designed our own Make May Purple posters and even held a fancy dress competition, which put a smile on all our faces. We've also been sharing regular challenges, from baking to celebrity impersonations on our Facebook page.'
Find out more
Stroke Association groups will continue to pause their face-to-face meetings. However, many are offering remote online and offline support, or opening up their activities to people who live further afield.
You can find out what's going on in your area by calling our Stroke Helpline on 0303 3033 100 or by completing this webform and we will get back in touch.
Stroke News magazine
This is an adapted version of an article featured in the summer 2020 edition of our free magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.