On 26 July, the Musical Care Taskforce was launched, a new national strategic partnership campaign by Live Music Now (LMN) and the Utley Foundation’s Music for Dementia 2020 (M4D2020) initiative, with close support and collaboration from the National Care Forum (NCF) and the Association of British Orchestras (ABO). The aim of the Taskforce is to make music be seen as an essential element in dementia care.
The launch event was attended by over 60 senior representatives of the music, heath, social care and academic sectors, as well as people living with dementia and their carers. It was a unique and invaluable gathering of expertise, knowledge and lived experience.
After a rousing musical introduction from LMN musician Maz O’Connor, Sir Vernon Ellis (LMN Chair) welcomed the participants, and set out a call to action to work together to seize the opportunity to achieve our goal, and to bring the Adult Social Care (ASC) and health sectors along with us.
Grace Meadows (Director of Music for Dementia 2020) and Douglas Noble (LMN’s Strategic Director of Wellbeing) gave an overview of the collaborative work that had led to the launch, and the alignment of the campaigning work being done by both charities.
Grace cited the Utley Foundation sponsored report from International Longevity Commission, which paved the way for establishing Music For Dementia 2020. Douglas referred to the ongoing campaign that LMN have led (together with Sound Sense, Canterbury Christchurch University and many other partners) entitled A Choir in Every Care Home, to support and grow music and singing in ASC; and the findings of the Live Music In Care report, jointly published by LMN and the University of Winchester in 2018.
Robert Sugden (Assistant Producer, BBC Music Day) invited all to join in with the upcoming BBC Music for Dementia Day – which will take place across all networks on 26 September.
Douglas set out why music is an essential element in quality person-centred dementia care and lived experience, and that the case has been made for this with a growing rigorous and persuasive body of independent evidence.
The benefits of music in quality person-centred dementia care and lived experience are:
- Psychological & Emotional – It’s fun and enjoyable, lifts mood and dispels tensions and anxiety;
- Creative – Offering new skills and experiences, self-expression, communication of experience and identity and agency and control;
- Neurological – It engages auditory, cognitive, motor, and emotional processing;
- Social – It supports social bonding , aids communication, engagement , relationships, identity ;
- Physical – It can delay frailty, and potentially reduce likelihood of dementia;
- Benefit for carers and care settings themselves – It builds community, relationships, offers enjoyment, supports leadership, making a happier place to live and work; and
- Positive impact on Quality of Care – Can support the CQC ‘s quality assessment criteria.
There followed a panel session chaired by Liz Jones Policy Director of NCF, featuring a range of perspectives, expertise and experience, including Dr Jennifer Bute (who is living with dementia), Dr Ming Hung Hsu (Music Therapist, MHA and Anglia Ruskin University), Dawn Bundock and Sandra Davis (of MHA Bradbury Grange), Maz O’Connor and Prof Justine Schneider (University of Nottingham). They each provided an invaluable insight into their respective views on why music should be an essential element in the dementia experience for carers and those living with dementia.
The day was the handed over to the participants, who earned their lunch by giving a range of suggestions for the next steps to advance the Campaign, under five Work Strands:
- Workforce Development
After lunch, and another musical interlude from Maz (this time supported by Dawn and Sandra), the participants broke up into small groups to discuss the concept of a Musical Care Pledge with Commitments that can be signed up to by care providers, organisations, settings or individuals and carers, in return for which they will get regular updates with ideas and suggestions on how to use music with people living with dementias.
The aim is to make it as easy as possible to sign up, but without it representing any significant financial commitment. Groups considered what the pledge should contain; how we can make signing up useful and of value for care providers, settings and carers; and how we inspire those in the care sector who are not convinced of the value of music. Many very valuable and insightful suggestions and ideas emerged from the discussions.
A final musical performance from Maz rounded off a day full of quality discussion and contributions from all who attended, to whom LMN and M4D2020 are very grateful. The contributions and ideas of the participants are now being written up to form a Priority Action Plan, which will be shared in the Autumn (including the final version of the Musical Care Pledge). Further gatherings of the Taskforce will take place following this.
Neil Utley, Founder and Trustee of the Music for Dementia 2020 campaign said:
“Everyone in this group has a huge part to play and only by linking together will our efforts be maximised. Whether we are involved in changing the way music is distributed, helping people create playlists or delivering therapy, we are part of the same national programme. A programme that can, and will, transform lives.”
Evan Dawson, Executive Director of Live Music Now said:
“Engaging with music can significantly improve the lives of people living with dementia, as well as their carers and families. It doesn’t need to be difficult or expensive, but it does need to be done well. By sharing these ideas and good practices, we aim to ‘demystify’ music – so that everyone can join in, and experience the medical and social benefits, and sheer joy of making great music together.”