The idea behind social prescribing is to connect people to community initiatives, to arts and culture and to other activities that can help bring calm and encourage interaction with others. It is particularly beneficial for those living with dementia as it can reduce distress and agitation and generally make them happier. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has spoken about the benefits and how it help combat the ‘over-medicalisation’ of people with dementia in care. He said:
“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.”
It seems to be an idea that is really gaining traction in the care sector. From the RHS backing a pilot scheme to help people get into gardening, to the BBC music and TV archives, the variety of activities that could help are quite diverse.
We have tried to build this idea into some of the dementia friendly products that we have developed for care homes and hospitals. Certainly our retro TVs that play footage from the Yorkshire Film Archives sit quite neatly alongside music as a stimulant for recalling long term memories. Creating calm is also a key aim of our digital fish tanks due to the calming nature of watching fish swimming (and we know that a real fish tank is often not an option in care homes or hospitals due to hygiene rules).
With regard to the issue of creating calm through means other than medication, we even had a client recently report a significant reduction in their medication bill mainly due to a reduction in stress and anxiety among service users. The client believes that one of the contributing factors in this reduction is the effectiveness of the signage around the care home environment (not being able to find your way around can be incredibly stressful for people with dementia).
Social prescribing therefore seems like a very effective way to improve the well-being of people with dementia and should be something all care environments should be looking to incorporate into their programmes.