October 9, 2020

This National Link Worker Day, we’re showcasing how link workers can work with local agencies, GPs and social workers to create musical social prescriptions for people living with dementia.

What is social prescribing?

More than 60% of clinical commissioning groups in England have adopted social prescribing schemes. These schemes enable healthcare professionals to refer people with social, emotional or practical needs to a link worker.

Link workers will help with the non-medical aspects of a condition, connecting people to local day centres, charities or community groups to improve their health, wellbeing and social welfare. Social prescribing has been found to benefit people affected by dementia by by improving and supporting the social, emotional and psychological aspects of their lives.

In a win-win situation, evaluations of local social prescribing schemes have reported reduced pressure on NHS services.

Link workers and dementia

Link workers are empathetic and good listeners, holding face-to-face conversations with the person referred to them. For people living with dementia, these conversations may also involve family, friends and carers.

Working with a link worker, people can find things that matter to them and design their own personal solutions – jointly creating a personalised social prescription.

Many possible social prescription options exist including: gardening, healthy eating, walking, sports, and arts activities such as painting and music.

How can music be prescribed?

We believe that being connected to music-based activities is a powerful type of social prescription that will help to improve the quality of life for people living with dementia.

Music is a universal experience that people living with dementia can enjoy at any point during their dementia journey and can play a useful role in their care. Music provides experiences that can be shared, enhancing relationships.

There are many areas in someone’s life where music might have played an important role e.g. love of sport, faith or spiritual life, work, relationships with family and friends. There are also a huge number of ways that people can include music in their lives.

As a link worker you can ask a series of music-based questions to develop a music social prescription such as:

  • How important is music to you and why?
  • What music do you enjoy most and why?
  • What sort of music activities did you used to do that you would like to do again?
  • What kind of music activities have you never tried by would like to?
  • When do you like listening to music? How do you like to experience music – listening, singing, playing?

Please see our musical conversation template for more questions.

As a person with dementia, family member, friend or carer, you can also use this template to prepare for your conversation with the link worker.

Once the social prescription is ‘written’, a link worker finds suitable local groups to join or services to link to. You can use our Musical Map to discover musical activities in your area (many are online at present).

Link workers can also offer support in making the necessary introductions to groups to rekindle a musical relationship or start on a new musical path.