Since strokes can cause dementia, the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) has started a rehabilitation scheme for patients to help slow or prevent the onset of the mental disease.

The NNI Stroke Memory Rehabilitation Programme, which focuses on strengthening skills such as memory and planning abilities, will be rolled out over the next three years. Said to be the first such programme here, it is expected to benefit about 2,500 stroke patients each year once it is fully implemented.

“Current rehabilitation programmes focus on physical and functional rehabilitation, but not cognition,” said Associate Professor Nagaendran Kandiah, who is a senior consultant at NNI.

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor, who was speaking at the International Neurocognitive Symposium yesterday at the Raffles City Convention Centre, said: “A significant number of dementia cases here are caused by silent strokes, where there are no overt physical symptoms.”

Latest figures show that around 7,000 residents were admitted to public hospitals for stroke in 2014.

Within six months of a stroke, around 37 per cent of people develop some form of cognitive impairment.

The figure goes up to 52 per cent after a year.

Prof Nagaendran said: “While cognitive decline may continue after stroke, a significant number of patients will show stabilisation... when provided with suitable intervention programmes.”

NNI will collaborate with the Agency for Integrated Care on the programme.