In this project, funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), we will co-design a new music therapy intervention for NHS dementia wards with stakeholders and experts-by-experience, called MELODIC.
We will then pilot MELODIC on two dementia wards to make sure it is possible to deliver and has the potential to be helpful for patients, family members and staff.
Distress is common for people with dementia on hospital mental health wards, but music might help.
There are lots of reasons why people get distressed. Sometimes it is a result of symptoms like hallucinations, and sometimes it is because the care they receive does not meet their needs.
If a person with dementia is so distressed that they behave in a way that puts themselves or others at risk, they may be admitted to a hospital mental health ward. The aim of the hospital stay is to understand and treat their distress, so that they may be discharged with an appropriate support plan. This can take a long time.
There is little research looking at these hospital wards, which can be very different to general hospital wards or care homes. It is hard to care for someone who is very frightened and distressed and both staff and patients can get hurt (staff experience more physical assaults than prison officers).
Calming medications (antipsychotics) are often given to a person with dementia on these wards when distressed. This is a worry because research suggests that these increase the risks of falls and death.
Music therapy has helped lower distress for people with dementia living in care homes, and supported staff to understand why someone might be distressed. But we do not know enough about how music therapy can help people with dementia in mental health wards.
Our own research on mental health wards found that on the days the therapy took place there were fewer assaults and staff could see a positive impact on the ward. But not all mental health wards have music therapy.
People with dementia and their family members that we spoke to also found music helpful and supported the idea of having this therapy on wards.
In this eighteen-month project, we will create a music therapy manual for mental health wards together with people with dementia, their families and staff with the aim of reducing distress and assaults.
ARU will be working with partners at the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Cambridge, the University of Hull, and Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust to deliver the project.
Once the manual is finished, we will share it with the public and look to test it on more mental health wards for people with dementia.