Personalised Music To Be Integrated Into Dementia Care With New Training Programmes

Scottish music for dementia charity, Playlist for Life, has launched a package of UK-wide training programmes urging healthcare professionals and those with caring responsibilities to harness the power of music when caring for people living with dementia.

There are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. This figure will rise to 1m by 2025 and 2m+ by 2050. There is no cure but research has shown that ‘personal music’ – the specific tunes attached to someone’s emotions and that spark memories – can help those living with the condition by alleviating stress, managing symptoms and reconnecting relationships with family members and carers. It can even reduce the use of medication – by as much as 60 per cent in some people.

Personalised playlists form part of a wider movement in healthcare recognising the benefits of social prescribing. In November 2018, Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

“And I must pay tribute to the pioneering work of the charity Playlist for Life. Their work creating personal playlists for people with dementia led to a 60% reduction in the need for psychotropic medication at one care home. This is the kind of cheap, easy-to-use social prescription that I’m fully behind.”

The newly launched professional training programmes are aimed at individual care staff and healthcare professionals, NHS departments, care homes and community centres that work with people living with dementia. Delegates learn about the benefits of using personalised music to support those living with dementia, how to make playlists and effectively integrate them into personalised care programmes for people with dementia.

The new ‘Integrating into care’ package trains staff across the whole home or ward in how to use playlists. At the end of the project, successful establishments are awarded a plaque of certification. The ‘Embedding into your setting’ package takes the training a step further and allows teams, departments, homes and whole organisations to train an in-house trainer who can roll out playlists at scale within the organisation in the most cost-effective way.

Playlist for Life was founded in 2013 by writer and broadcaster Sally Magnusson, to ensure that everyone with dementia has a playlist of ‘the soundtrack of their life’, and that everyone who loves and cares for them knows how to use it.

Sarah Metcalfe, Chief Executive of Playlist for Life, said:

“We’re really passionate about integrating playlists into dementia care by adopting a ‘whole-home approach’. This means that everyone in an organisation caring for people with dementia has a role to play in implementing playlists: from senior management and carers to the receptionist and kitchen staff.

If someone living with dementia is continually sending back their food, a member of catering staff could recognise this and suggest scheduling of therapeutic playlist activity before mealtimes. We’ve learnt from experience that the more people who are involved in the project, the more music will become a standard part of the daily life for the people we’re caring for, and the greater impact it will have.”

Avery Healthcare, a national care home provider operating residential, dementia and nursing care homes throughout the UK, is one organisation that has benefitted from Playlist for Life’s training, having adopted the use of playlists throughout the care group. As of yesterday (18th February) Avery now have ten certified Playlist for Life organisations and a dedicated member of staff who has become an in-house trainer after being accredited by Playlist for Life.

Heather Perkins, Dementia Support Advisor at Avery and certified in-house trainer said:

“Becoming a certified trainer has enabled me to train staff from all departments within our care homes and has helped Avery to embed playlists into our care. The training was accessible but extremely informative and enjoyable, and has helped us to make a positive difference to each resident’s quality of life.”

In addition to the professional training opportunities, Playlist for Life offers support for family members and communities caring for people with dementia. Since 2015 they have delivered training to over 100 organisations, including local libraries, dementia cafes and community centres. The newly launched ‘Music Detective skills for communities programme has been designed for groups who don’t usually care for those living with dementia and explains how to identify key songs from a person with dementia’s life and use them to form the ‘soundtrack to their life.’

Applications are now open via Playlist for Life’s website:








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