Innovative new support centre connecting stroke survivors back into our community

A $20,000 grant from the Geelong Community Foundation has helped make possible Australia’s first regional stroke support centre, located in a house in leafy Richmond Crescent, Geelong. The Barwon Stroke Support Centre, an initiative of the Stroke Association of Victoria, is connecting people who have had a stroke with other stroke survivors and back into our community.

Stroke can strike at any age, to anyone. Just when life is all mapped out or already going to plan – in your work, leisure, finances, family and friendships – an active community member can become a patient whose primary concern is navigating the medical maze. For stroke survivors, it’s in the next phase that the reality of a changed life can hit hardest. Rehabilitation can be a complex and long-term process and people who have had a stroke may feel isolated by physical, mental and social disabilities. The lives of the carers can also be impacted.

The ground-breaking new Barwon Stroke Support Centre is addressing current gaps in post-stroke care and empowering survivors to rediscover community connection and fulfilment in their life. The Centre opened its doors in January 2017 offering group and individual peer support programs, which are as much about friendship as sharing medical experiences. New peer groups, information sessions and integrated wellness programs for stroke survivors and carers are being added during 2017. The Centre is also working on a ‘Stay at Work’ initiative to support stroke survivors in the workplace. The Geelong Centre will produce a workable model to open seven more centres like it around Victoria.

Diane Speed, a peer support volunteer at the Centre, was 26 when a stroke changed her life in 1988: “I did the hard yards over many, many years, I had to do it all myself. This place is a godsend for people wanting post-stroke information. There’s a level of understanding that only people who have lived through stroke can fully comprehend. It’s important to know you are not alone on this journey.”

There are over 400,000 people living with the effects of stroke in Australia, almost 7,000 stroke survivors and their carers within the Barwon South West Region located in and near Geelong. Supporting people through the difficult period of lifestyle adjustment due to the impact of their stroke, and providing support for the grief and fear associated with any disability, loss of roles and loss of independence following stroke, is a focus of the Geelong Centre. Through peer support, stroke survivors can problem-solve together and support one another to pursue personal ideas of success.

Christine Donald, Regional Development Manager of the Stroke Association of Victoria, explains, “The primary role of community-based stroke support is to provide support for stroke survivors, carers and family members to participate in all aspects of community life. However, information about and access to this support can be somewhat fragmented and inconsistent. The vision of the Barwon Stroke Support Centre is to ensure stroke survivors and their carers can access sustainable peer support, education and community linkages.”

The Stroke Association of Victoria have secured a long-term lease arrangement for the Centre’s Geelong home, with permission to refurbish the property as needed. Its neglected garden is fast being transformed by amazing support from the East Geelong Lions Club and will be the focus of the newly formed Garden Group with men from the ‘Blokes with Stroke’ Group.

Greater social inclusion and empowerment of stroke survivors and carers also strengthens our community. Geelong is a better place when this happens. The Geelong Community Foundation is a proud supporter of the landmark Barwon Stroke Support Centre.

Further information about the Barwon Stroke Support Centre

To enquire about the Centre’s services, please contact:
Carly Stephens, tel. 9077 1246 or email carly@strokeassociation.com.au.

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