Health Secretary Calls for Use of Personal Playlists in Dementia Care

Health secretary, Matt Hancock, has called for GPs to prescribe song playlists as an alternative to medication for people living with dementia and mental health problems during a speech this week. Speaking at the King’s Fund think tank, Mr Hancock said “it can lead to the same or better outcomes for patients without popping pills. And it saves the NHS money. Because many of these social cures are free."

The health secretary went on to call the arts an “indispensable tool” for doctors and said culture could be considered in place of drugs to treat long-term medical conditions such as dementia. Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, supported Mr Hancock, pointing out that social prescribing “is not a new phenomenon”, and that encouraging people to try alternative approaches could have a positive impact.

Read on to find out more about personal playlists and how you can use them to support people living with dementia.

Personal Playlists

The Scottish charity, Playlist for Life, has been advocating the use of personal playlists in the care of people living with dementia since 2013. Founded by broadcaster Sally Magnusson, after observing the beneficial effects of familiar music on her own mother, the charity has gone on to develop a range of resources for family members and care professionals, which are available from its website. Personal playlists are a cheap, simple and powerful way to harness the power of music to make living with dementia easier and happier so why not try them in your own care home?

3 Simple Steps to Try Personal Playlists with Your Service Users 

  1. Choose your technology carefully: Many people will remember the popularity of “mixtapes” during the 70s and 80s, where a selection of favourite songs was carefully recorded onto an audio tape. Developments in technology mean that playlists are far more likely to be created on a tablet or MP3 player today and these high capacity devices also allow far more music to be stored. By using a suitable device in conjunction with a music app, such as Spotify or iTunes, you will be able to begin to create playlists for any occasion.
  2. Personalise the playlist: By researching the musical tastes of the person in your care, along with their family and friends, you will be able to make their playlist truly personal. Aim to include tracks that will invoke memories, stimulate emotions and encourage activity and discussion. By developing the playlist during the earlier stages of dementia, you can ensure that the content is appropriate and effective and it can then be used during the later stages of the illness to provide comfort and familiarity if other forms of communication become more difficult to achieve.
  3. Share your enthusiasm: For the playlists to have the best possible effect, make sure that all staff are aware of their availability and how they can be used. You can even include the use of the playlists in care plans, perhaps to aid sleep or as a tool to help manage agitation.

Are you a Registered Manager responsible for service users with dementia in a care home or domiciliary setting? Read Care Quality Matters for the best in actionable advice from our expert team.

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