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What Works for Music and Dementia?

The arts can transform people’s lives and play a role in solving social problems.

Scotland is blessed with an arts scene that is world-class and wide-reaching: including a voluntary and commercial sector that help the industry to innovate, connect and empower.

Articulate is on a mission to help realise this potential to transform, and health impact is the focus of this blog ... helping the health sector harness the power of the arts, and the arts to gear up to deliver health improvement.

What Works?

In 2016, What Works for Well-being created a briefing paper focused on music, singing and well-being, using evidence-based impact studies from across a twenty-year period to examine positive shifts in quality of life, confidence and depression in adults with dementia.

They found evidence, of varying strengths, which concluded that targeted and setting-appropriate participatory singing helped with:

  • relaxation, emotional well-being and a reduction in anxiety for sufferers

  • while music supported well-being in palliative care patients but also in student nurses.

They aligned their findings with local authority priorities to advocate for the arts place in:

  • living and aging well and for a good quality of life, as well as

  • supporting those with long-term conditions and their carers.

And the report concluded that further progress could be made by:

  • keeping doing what is done well, and

  • continuing to evaluate, to inform decision-makers and funders with best quality information possible.

How Can We Use It?

We could use this research, along with more general arts and health findings from the Arts Councils in England and Northern Ireland, as an advocacy tool as follows:

  1. Employ this knowledge to articulate potentials to tackle health challenges in Scotland

  2. Support incubation of arts enterprises with a health and social purpose

  3. Connect high quality artists and care providers to co-create evidence-based, cost-effective, sustainable and scalable solutions.

A cohesive and creative advocacy campaign would aim to:

  • generate health demand for the arts

  • provide programme ideas which the care sector can adopt or adapt

  • embed the evolving knowledge base to support improvement and growth.

Many Hands Make Light Work

Such an advocacy campaign might comprise six key components:

Firstly - for decision-makers:

  • A conference, seminars, briefing events, publications and reports for improvements in awareness of and aspiration to transform, placing the arts at the heart of health strategy and policy.

  • Showcases and case studies of scaled models in other areas – for example, the Dance to Health initiative in England, though there are many others world-wide, especially in Australia and Canada. Dance to Health targets arts, health and social benefits plus identifies efficiency savings. Following a £350k evaluated pilot, a £2.5 million roll-out will run till September 2019. In it, 63 programmes will engage over 1,000 participants and involve 1,500 volunteers in a ‘test and learn’ initiative with an extensive communications and evaluation strategy planned in support.

  • As a result of this ongoing lobbying, advocacy and spotlighting of scalable practice, a campaign could encourage strategic commissioning as described in Dance to Health.

Secondly - for funders – an advocacy campaign could instigate a network for pioneering commissioners and philanthropists, including lotteries, NHS, key trusts and foundations such as the Wellcome Trust and highly-focused transformational investors like the Life Changes Trust and NESTA.

Thirdly - for programme managers – a campaign would advocate for a music and dementia network to match health needs with arts providers through knowledge and skills exchange as well as a bespoke website that illustrates shared learning, good practice, strong partnership and evidencing positive outcomes for dementia sufferers and carers.

Fourth - for artists and care staff – a campaign could offer encouragement to professionalise the participatory activity through training for both arts and health professionals; supporting them to deliver highest quality creative interventions, perhaps using ArtWorks principles at its core.

For policy-makers – a campaign would offer endorsement for commissioning a robust evaluation framework that can be used to continue to ‘test and learn’ from music, singing and dementia projects large and small, the findings of which, when combined, continue to emphasise and amplify the benefits of musical access for this group of beneficiaries.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, for carers and the patients themselves – a campaign would illustrate that singing and music have therapeutic, social and medical benefits whether delivered with, or for, sufferers and that requests for such activity, formal or informal, paid or voluntary, should be seen a legitimate and valuable component of any care package in Scotland.

#arts #health #music #singing #dementia #policy

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