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Audio players project helps stimulate people with dementia

People with dementia are using simple music players to access audiobooks and radio/TV programmes

People with dementia are using simple music players to access audiobooks and radio/TV programmes

Listening to music
Picture: iStock

A project at Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust provides the opportunity for people with dementia to borrow audio players during their stays.

Preloaded with audiobooks and/or radio and television programmes, the audio players can stimulate and engage, provide something for people with dementia to focus on, and relieve some of the boredom of being in hospital.

All of this is possible with minimal staff input. Dementia coordinators and ward staff identify people for whom audiobooks could be helpful, then dementia volunteers assist them in using the audio players.

In March 2018, the trust’s academy library applied to its innovation panel for £1,600 funding to purchase ten dementia-friendly simple music players and several pairs of earphones.

The library also took out a subscription to an audiobooks download service, although there are thousands of out-of-copyright audiobooks available free to download. 

Online listening books library

As library staff, when we receive a request for an audiobook – usually from one of the dementia coordinators or a member of ward staff – we spend some time finding out about the patient’s needs and what kind of listening material they may enjoy. 

Simple Music Player
One of the simple music players

We then search through the online listening books library to find an appropriate choice. We can search by genre, author, subject and audience, and choose from thousands of titles, before downloading the audiobook on to the player.

The audio player and headphones are then taken to the ward, where we demonstrate how they work either to the person who will use it, their family or a member of staff, depending on which is most appropriate.

The person can request another book at any point and can keep the audio player for as long as they like.

After about a week, the library staff usually phone the ward to check on progress and ask if more listening material is needed. When the person has finished with the player or left the ward, the player and headphones are collected and feedback gathered.

Soft launch

The project has been running since its soft launch in July 2018 and usage has been good. We have encountered a few challenges, not least ensuring that the players, headphones and power cables are returned.

Despite clear labelling and instructions, a few pieces of equipment have gone missing. We expected to lose headphones and possibly the odd simple music player, but were surprised to have lost several power cables, possibly due to their resemblance to phone chargers.

As each patient is cared for by more than one staff member, it is difficult to ensure messages are passed on and communicated between staff. However, we are confident this will improve over time – as we get more requests for audio players, staff on the wards will become more familiar with the equipment and loan process.

In September, we publicised the project further in the trust’s monthly newspaper and usage has continued to increase.

Although the project initially focused on people with dementia, we have had interest from a range of different wards. This is encouraging, and we foresee the audio players being used and enjoyed by many different people in the future.


About the author

Jason Ovens is head of library and knowledge services, Academy Library, Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust

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