Next generation of carers offered online training in music for dementia patients

An online training platform is being launched to enable the next generation of carers to learn more about the power of music in looking after people with dementia.

The Playlist for Life charity has worked with more than 6,000 health and social care professionals since 2015. Now, as the pandemic prevents trainers from delivering modules in person, it is providing courses online. The first of these will be the Playlist for Students course, which was successfully trialled by more than 600 people at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Playlist for Life has developed the training after more than 20 years of research into what it calls ‘personal music’. These are the specific tunes associated with an individual’s emotions that can be used to tap into memories that have been hidden deep beneath the dementia diagnosis.

Among the benefits of accessing such memories are reducing stress, managing symptoms and feeling moments of joy. They can also strengthen the relationships between residents and their family members or carers.

Music has been found to be beneficial in dementia patients both anecdotally and in a series of studies over the last few years. Among these was major research undertaken by the World Health Organization, which included a section on dementia in its in-depth look at the impact of the arts on health.

It concluded that when music was played to dementia patients, the effects were wide-ranging. Among the benefits were: cutting rates of anxiety and depression; supporting cognition, aiding speech and memory; reducing the use of antipsychotic drugs, and fewer or shorter stays in hospital.

Professor Craig Ritchie, chair of the Psychiatry of Ageing at the University of Edinburgh and Director of Brain Health Scotland, appears in the new training. He said: “Music stimulates many parts of the brain at once, meaning that even if parts of the brain have been damaged by dementia, music can still reach other parts.

“Playlist for Life uses music that is meaningful to a person living with dementia to improve their life, and the lives of their loved ones and carers. Everyone training for a career in health and social care should take the opportunity to learn more about the power of personal playlists.” 

Anyone taking a course in nursing, medicine, social care or music therapy at a higher education institution based in the UK will be able to access the online training. Courses for carers already employed in the industry will also be made available on the internet and those keen to take part can register their interest on the website.

After completing the training, carers will better understand the benefits of creating personal playlists and understand how to implement them in person-centred care. It is made up of seven modules, presented through videos, animations and case studies, and should take around two hours to take in thoroughly.