More people with dementia should be offered music and dance therapy to manage their condition and prevent them from being “over-medicalised”, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.
While official clinical guidance says local areas should consider the therapeutic uses of music or dancing for people with dementia, it is not widely adopted across the country.
Speaking at a reception hosted by the Prince of Wales at Clarence House in support of social prescription therapies, Hancock said: “Dementia can devastate the lives of people affected by it and although there is not yet a cure I believe we can do more to improve the lives of people with the condition. In particular I want to combat over-medicalisation and dishing out pills when it’s not in the best interests of the patient.
“There is increasing evidence suggesting music can bring calm to people with dementia by reducing agitation and supporting those affected to cope better with symptoms. This is the kind of personalised care that I fully endorse as a key part of our NHS’ Long Term Plan.”
Evidence suggests music can help people with dementia, in some cases even reducing the need for medication. It can help reduce agitation and minimise the need for restraint, helping people with dementia and their families cope better with symptoms.
But Hilary Evans, CEO of Alzheimer’s Research UK told Home Care Insight that while it’s important we find new ways to improve the lives of people with dementia, “we must not lose sight of the harsh reality that we cannot completely prevent and stop dementia today”.
“Dementia puts a considerable strain on our health system, and this situation must be addressed through investing in treatments that can change the course of diseases like Alzheimer’s,” she added.
“We need increased and long-term government funding for research to explore new avenues and uncover the treatments we so desperately need. We hope government will build on the strong foundation laid through the Challenge on Dementia and commit to putting 1% of the cost of dementia towards research each year.”
Paul Edwards, director of Clinical Services at Dementia UK said: “Music and dance are just some of the therapies which improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their carers. It can provide valuable moments of reconnection, enjoyment and exercise. This is why we welcome the Government’s recognition of this and it’s something which we expect the long-awaited social care Green Paper to build on.
“However music and dance therapy can both be part of a wider programme of care for families. We also need to have dementia specialist Admiral Nurses to help families understand the changes in personality and abilities that dementia can bring, as well as help with the practical challenges of caring and living with the condition, such as washing and dressing, and problems with eating and sleeping.”
The number of people with dementia is set to rise from 850,000 today to more than a million by 2025, according to Alzheimer’s Society.
To help tackle this global health challenge, the Government launched the Dementia 2020 Challenge in 2015, investing £433 million since then to accelerate progress in early detection, improved treatment, prevention and care.