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Music to play key role in helping people living with Dementia



 

The National Academy for Social Prescribing and its partners are launching two groundbreaking initiatives, which will bring the proven benefits of music to tens of thousands more people living with dementia and their carers

The Power of Music Fund and the Music Can digital platform will be launched on 8th November at a special event for policy-makers, charities and health leaders at Universal Music UK’s offices. Together these initiatives will provide support through music - a ‘social prescription’ that evidence suggests could help improve the lives of the 944,000 people currently living with dementia in the UK. 

Opening for applications on 22nd November, the Power of Music Fund will allow grassroots dementia choirs and music groups to apply for small grants to cover basic costs, like room hire, travel and refreshments. There will also be one larger grant of £500,000, available for a new Centre of Excellence; a partnership between health and care providers, voluntary organisations, music providers and dementia support organisations. The Centre of Excellence will test new approaches to embedding music as part of dementia care, gather evidence of cost savings for the NHS, and design new models of care which could be scaled up and spread across England.   

The National Academy for Social Prescribing (NASP) has established the Fund, which has been kickstarted by a £1 million contribution from the Utley Foundation, as well as generous support from Arts Council England, Music for All and others. NASP aims to raise £5 million for the fund in total.

The Music Can online platform will go live on 8th November, helping people living with dementia, their carers and musicians to feel confident about using music as part of their care. The website, spearheaded by Universal Music UK and developed by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), includes a directory of support, playlists, music activities and advice. BCG’s team of tech and digital experts worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders from the dementia community to identify the challenges in their use of the music care ecosystem.  

Its easy-to-navigate functionality has been informed and designed in partnership with people with lived experience, practitioners, and experts – and it will become a vital tool for health and care professionals in helping people living with the condition and their families.  

These projects build on two of the recommendations of last year’s Power of Music report, published by UK Music and Music for Dementia, and mark an important step forward in dementia care. 

Most of us will be affected by dementia in some capacity, at some point in our lives; 209,600 more people are estimated to develop dementia this year.

While there is currently no cure, research suggests that engagement with music can offer significant social, emotional and cognitive benefits for people living with dementia. For example, music therapy can reduce agitation and the need for anti-psychotic medication in 67% of people with dementia [3].

Cathy Sahadevan, who works at The Grange Care Home in Essex, has been running the One Voice choir for residents with dementia for five years.  

She said: “We have all noticed a difference… Many of the residents remember more, are now using their reading skills again, talking more and being more sociable and sometimes, outside of rehearsals, they all burst into song.”

Charlotte Osborn-Forde, CEO at The National Academy for Social Prescribing, said: “Music can be a lifeline for people living with dementia and their carers, creating moments of joy and connection when so much else is hard to cope with. It is the perfect example of social prescribing and something that can have long-lasting impact on people’s wellbeing and take pressure off the NHS.

“But dementia choirs and local projects often find it hard to keep going from one month to the next, and they are rarely well connected to wider healthcare services, meaning lots of people miss out on the benefits. That’s why we plan to grow the Power of Music Fund over the coming years, so that we can support more of these projects, and help them link with local services such as GP practices. We want to help make music a standard part of dementia care – with doctors, link workers and others offering music-based activities and referring people to the Music Can platform.”

 

QUOTES FROM POWER OF MUSIC FUND SUPPORTERS AND PARTNERS

Tony Christie, singer and Champion for the Music for Dementia campaign, said: “I've always known that music could make a huge difference to a person’s happiness, and that belief has grown even stronger since I was diagnosed with dementia. I always recommend people in my position to sing if they’re able to or just listen to music. It’s a huge help. I am delighted to support these projects, which will help people diagnosed with dementia to access music more easily – whether they are joining a local choir or using the Music Can platform.”

Rt Hon Sir John Whittingdale OBE MP, Creative Industries Minister, said: "Music can bring people comfort and connection in challenging times. Now more choirs and community groups can change the lives of patients and families through the power of music. I'm incredibly proud that public funding has helped make this support possible."

David Joseph, Chairman & CEO, Universal Music UK, said: “I’m delighted to see the fund and Music Can platform launch today. Both initiatives are perfect examples of the power of music, bringing music and healthcare to together to support people’s wellbeing right across the country.” 

Neil Utley of The Utley Foundation, said: “It’s almost magical, when you see someone with dementia being reached by a favourite tune, a live performance, or a choir session. The Utley Foundation believes everyone who receives a diagnosis should be told music can help and be supported to find the best kind of music for them. NASP’s announcements today are a huge step forward in making that a reality and I am delighted we are kickstarting the Power of Music Fund with £1million. We encourage other investors to get on board with a project that offers a real vision for improving life for people with dementia and their carers.”

Darren Henley, CEO of Arts Council England, said: “People everywhere tell us how much they value opportunities to develop and express their creativity, both on their own and with others. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that everyone is given the opportunity to be involved, particularly those living with dementia where we know that music can positively impact their health and happiness. We are delighted to be funding the Power of Music partnership, which is bringing together the exceptional talent of musicians, choirs and orchestras from across the country to work with health and care professionals to bring joy to people, whatever their circumstances.”

Nicole Meissner, Managing Director and Partner at Boston Consulting Group, said: “Music Can is the first platform built to deliver bespoke dementia care of its kind based on the individual needs of those affected by this terrible condition. It has the potential to become a crucial tool not only for those living with dementia but also for their families and carers. It has been incredibly rewarding to see how technology, music and science can play an integrated role, working together to combat dementia’s effects. Our team is proud to have partnered with such fantastic organisations, all dedicated to this important cause, to create this unique platform.”

James Sanderson, Director of Community Health Services and Personalised Care at NHS England, said: “Research has highlighted the potential power of music for people living with dementia in helping to improve and bring back memories, build, maintain and reconnect relationships, and helping with mood and anxiety. 

“The NHS is continuing to support millions of people through social prescribing link workers, working as part of the general practice team. Nearly 2.5 million people, including those living with dementia, have been referred to social prescribing to date. I am delighted to see the launch of the Power of Music fund to help maintain and boost music-based community activities for people living with dementia across England, providing another route to support people through social prescribing activities.”

Tony Followell, Chair of Trustees for Music for All, said: “Music for All already has experience of helping those groups and families supporting people living with dementia. This includes donating instruments, providing specialist music therapy and supporting choral groups. We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with the Power of Music fund and the National Academy for Social Prescribing to support underserved communities. This initiative will bring joy to many and improve the wellbeing of those suffering from the debilitating effects of dementia.”  

UK Music Interim Chief Executive Tom Kiehl said:  “Since UK Music and Music for Dementia’s groundbreaking Power of Music report last year there has been lots of great work to keep up the momentum for the positive benefits of music’s impact on health and wellbeing. 

“The launch of the Power of Music Fund and Music Can are the culmination of these efforts and provide a clear direction for the next stages of integrating music and healthcare outcomes further.”

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