Dementia and Social Prescribing

Background and current practice

The most recent NHS strategy was perceived by dementia charities to be silent on dementia. This is despite people living with dementia appearing already in almost every part of the health and care systems. In these settings they are often treated by people without specialist geriatric or dementia training.

No new drugs or pharmacological answers to dementia have been launched in decades, with none anticipated soon. Concerns remain around the inappropriate use of psychotropic medication. The National Dementia Strategy, Living well with dementia, calls for a reduction in the use of medication nationwide within UK care settings and highlights the importance of non-pharmacological interventions.

Potential for change

Social prescribing is a highly relevant and potentially transformative avenue for dementia, specifically with the view to increasing the awareness around the role of music to support quality of life for people living with dementia. There is a growing evidence base for efficacy, and a range of activities already exist that are well suited to referrals e.g. music therapy, live music programmes and projects, personal playlists, community initiatives such as dementia choirs.

For people living with dementia, music is a necessity.

  • Neurologically it stimulates multiple parts of the brain at once, including areas among the last to be affected by dementia.
  • It is person-centred, enabling and empowering, and more cost effective when compared to the prescribing and administering of medications.

Read more about the research studies and evidence on music and dementia

How music can be prescribed

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 play an important part in musical social prescriptions. By having strengths-based and person-centred conversations with people, link workers can find out about people’s musical interests and preferred way of engaging with music. They can then connect the person with suitable local groups to join or services to access, many of which are listed on our Musical Map.

Find out more about social prescribing on the National Academy for Social Prescribing website.

Download the Musical conversation template and read more about the role of link workers in prescribing music.

Download the social workers guide on how to embed music in personalised social care plans.

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