Researchers at the University of East Anglia will investigate how social prescribing could be used in promoting a higher quality of life for people living with dementia, thanks to £2.7 million in funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).
Social prescribing is a prescription of activities for a person to use to link with others and undertake something they might enjoy.
This could be a walking or singing group, flower arranging class, visit to a museum or putting them in touch with other people to help them feel better. There is recognition of significant health benefits of social prescribing in long term illnesses.
The new study is the largest intervention development and evaluation of social prescribing to date.
Prof Chris Fox, from the University of Exeter and an Honorary Professorial Fellow at UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said: “Social Prescribing for people with dementia is a really promising area of treatment in supporting people to live as well as possible with the condition. We’re excited to investigate the benefits of social prescribing.”
The study – called Social Prescribing for people to Live ENjoyably with Dementia/memory problems In Daily life (SPLENDID) - aims to understand how social prescribing could be tailored to fit around the person’s own interests and hobbies – making the activities prescribed truly personalised.
Dr Jane Cross, who is co-leading the study with Prof Fox, and from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “Living well with dementia is so important for both the person with dementia and their friends and family to keep them connected with the world and other people.”
The project starts in October and will last more than five years. Key to the study is the trial of three new technologies: a patient focused app, an online dashboard for GPs, enabling them to easily monitor their patient’s record of activities, and tech for coaches who work with people to access local sources of support.
The researchers will engage in a broad discussion with people with dementia, family carers and staff working in social prescribing to understand what people want, what works well and what could be improved. Next, the team will design tools based on what works best in social prescribing.
Prof Elaine Hay, Programme Director of NIHR Programme Grants for Applied Research, said: "NIHR is increasing its focus on social care research and we're really excited to be supporting such an important project, that has the potential to make a huge difference to the lives of people with dementia and their families, while keeping them connected with their local communities. We look forward to seeing this research progress and give new insights in this area."
Nearly one million people in the UK will be living with the effects of dementia by 2030 including poor well-being and quality of life – findings from the study will shape the future of dementia care.
Partners of the study include the National Academy for Social Prescribing, the social prescribing network and uk technology firms: Evergreen life, Eclipse, and Elemental.