Fife first as music playlists bring moments of joy to people living with dementia

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The power of music is helping Fifers live with dementia.

A community mental health team has become the first in Scotland to be officially certified by Playlist for Life - a music and dementia charity founded by BBC broadcaster Sally Magnusson after she lost her mother, Mamie. to the condition. It has been shown to help those with dementia in a range of ways, often bringing happiness and hope at difficult times through the person’s journey, as well as a range of therapeutic benefits, including managing stress and distress.

The charity’s simple concept involves health and social care staff working alongside people living with dementia, their friends and family, to select songs from their lives which hold meaning and memories to create a personal playlist.

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Now Fife Health and Social Care Partnership’s Older Adult’s Community Mental Health team in West Fife have been recognised for its work in the Kingdom as part of Dementia Awareness Week. The team has found a reduction in the need for certain medications in some adults who have made a playlist, alongside other benefits.

Rebecca Kennedy with Nicola Hurst, community mental health nurse (Pic: NHS Fife)Rebecca Kennedy with Nicola Hurst, community mental health nurse (Pic: NHS Fife)
Rebecca Kennedy with Nicola Hurst, community mental health nurse (Pic: NHS Fife)

Nicola Hurst, community mental health nurse, said: “It has been brilliant to see first hand how the playlists can help. The results have been remarkable for our older people who have taken part. One of my favourite examples is one of our male patients, who lives at home, who is transported back to the enjoyment of past holidays from just one of the songs – Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline - he picked. Listening to his playlist reduces his agitation and gives him moments of happiness.

“I’ve heard others say they feel as if their loved ones are transported back to happy times again for the three minutes of a song - perhaps the first dance at their wedding or a favourite family events. It’s amazing to have been able to help facilitate their moments of joy in people’s lives and enhance their wellbeing.”

The work by the West Fife team continues a successful ongoing partnership with the charity.

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NHS Fife has also adopted the playlist concept in 12 wards across Fife but the West Fife team is the first community based team to adopt the initiative.

Initial funding came from the Friends of Queen Margaret Hospital nearly a decade ago. Family members across Fife have also made personal donations to help support the work as have community organisations including local Rotary Clubs. NHS Fife also provided funding for training and its Fife Health Charity, bought headphones and mp3 devices for those taking part. Playlist for Life has also donated equipment.

Nicky Connor, director of the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership added: “The playlist is so personal and powerful and can be taken with the person throughout their onward journey to remind them of their joyful moments at times of change or stress. It’s helped our team get to know more about the lives of those they are helping to care for which means a lot to all of them.

Rebecca Kennedy from Playlist for Life added: “We are thrilled that Fife Health and Social Care Partnership’s Community Mental Health Team is the latest to be Playlist for Life Certified. They are the first community mental health team to go through our certified process and they have set the bar high.”

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