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NICE update dementia care recommendations to include music therapy

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has updated its dementia care recommendations to include music therapy.

The updated guidance from (NICE), encourages practitioners to offer activities such as music therapy, exercise, aromatherapy, art, gardening, baking, reminiscence therapy, mindfulness and animal assisted therapy “to help promote their wellbeing”.

Grace Meadows, Programme Director at Music for Dementia 2020 and a senior music therapist at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, said: “This announcement is incredibly welcomed by Music for Dementia 2020 and all those that we are working with. It presents us with a wonderful opportunity to further support people living with dementia who could benefit from music therapy, but don’t yet have access to it as part of their dementia care.

“We have seen first-hand the benefits personalised music can have for people living with dementia – even those in the most advanced stages – and urge Clinical Commissioning Groups to act to ensure that music therapy is offered as part of the care they provide for people living with dementia.”

Professor Gillian Leng, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Health and Social Care at NICE, said: “People with dementia can find it harder to take part in activities, to engage socially, to maintain their independence, to communicate effectively, to feel in control and to care for themselves. Providing enjoyable and health-enhancing activities like music or reminiscence therapy can help with this.

“Understanding the activities that a person prefers, and thinks are suitable and helpful, and adapting them to their strengths and needs, will make a person more likely to engage with the activities offered and therefore more likely to benefit from them.”

How music supports Communication and expression

According to Music for Dementia 2020:

  1. Music can support the retention of speech and language skills

  2. It offers a non-verbal, creative means of expression.

  3. The stimulating affect of music encourages alertness, enabling greater motivation to communicate and connect with others.

  4. The flexibility of music enables different levels of participation, and offers opportunities for the musical experience to be person-centred.

  5. Memories of songs are linked to a person’s identity – linking to an individual’s personal and cultural identity, personal history and life events.

  6. Music can support memory recall, and the ability to appreciate and engage with music remains intact even as cognitive functions deteriorate.

  7. Musical engagement offers a way to keep in touch with and explore one’s own creativity, opening up new or unfamiliar ways for self-expression and communication that do not rely on the use of words.

  8. Musical engagement supports other services, for example, the delivery of physiotherapy programmes, daily routines.

  9. Music can offer and provide new experiences, hearing unfamiliar music, playing an instrument, singing with others in a choir for the first time. Music is more than just the golden oldies tune.

Music can support care

Music can play an important part in the care of service users. Music:

  1. Supports staff and service users’ relationships and promotes caregivers’ communication with service users;

  2. Brightens up the moods of people being cared for boosts staff morale and enables care to be more person-centred;

  3. Listening can be an easy way to aid the delivery of daily tasks, changing the way someone experiences everyday routines;

  4. Supports carers to see the individual they are working with for who they are. They experience the people they are caring for in different ways, seeing them beyond their dementia;

  5. Provides a ripple effect being part of care, and the positive impacts of engaging in musical interactions can be felt and experienced and shared with family and carers;

  6. Transforms a care environment, having a positive effect on service users, visitors and staff.


The recommendation of NICE to include music therapy in the care of people with dementia, should be welcomed by all staff who provide care services to people with dementia. It should also be welcomed by service users who are at various stages of dementia who find it difficult to take part in activities and engage socially.

The work of music for Dementia 2020 should be applauded as I am sure would have impacted on the recommendation of NICE to include music therapy in dementia care.

Visit for more information, to sign up to the Music for Dementia 2020 newsletter and to become part of the Taskforce.

Albert Cook Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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