Man with dementia playing the drum

Music and dementia: Nordoff Robbins policy position

At Nordoff Robbins, we are calling for music and in particular music therapy to be more readily available for people living with dementia.

Music and dementia: Nordoff Robbins policy position

Music therapy plays a vital role in easing anxiety, reducing isolation and helping people with dementia to retain and re-experience their sense of identity. We believe that music should not be optional or marginal for those living with dementia, as music is as intrinsic as language to our identity – and, as dementia progresses, more so: in music we find ourselves, become ourselves again and re-establish our relationships.

At Nordoff Robbins, we are calling for music and in particular music therapy to be more readily available in care homes and hospitals. Music therapy can enhance the general quality of care, help staff to deal with agitation, apathy, and communication problems, and help people to live well with dementia. Music therapy has been found to reduce agitation and the need for medication in 67% of people with dementia1, and as the International Longevity Centre’s report on Music and Dementia notes, “Music can promote a range of hugely beneficial outcomes for people with dementia. Moreover, when used appropriately and in a meaningful way, the use of music has no known negative impacts.”2

Music therapy is particularly beneficial in dementia care, as people retain their capacity to respond to and become engaged in music even as the brain deteriorates. While someone might have lost language, a music therapist can often still engage meaningfully with them, and this is key in breaking down the social isolation that is too often considered inevitable with dementia. Music therapy can also help people with dementia to sustain cognitive functioning, motor skills, communication and identity. NICE recognised this in their latest dementia guidance in June 2019, recommending that people living with dementia should be offered music therapy, to help promote wellbeing.

We are currently working with the Salford Institute for Dementia to develop research and insight into the key role music plays in supporting those with dementia to live well.

1 The All Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing, 2017. Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing report.

2 International Longevity Centre, 2018. Commission on Music and Dementia report.

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