The potential of social prescribing in supporting the health and wellbeing of people diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)
Approximately 6% of people aged over 65 have Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) (Sachdev et al., 2015). Cognitive decline may develop into dementia, but this is not inevitable. Social prescribing helps people locate and access community assets (e.g. groups, organisations, charities, activities) that can improve or maintain their holistic health (mind, body and relationships). This can include accessing events in cultural and heritage settings (e.g. in theatres, art galleries, museums). To date, there has been little exploration of social prescribing in addressing the well-being of people with MCI. Social prescribing has the potential to support these individuals, their relatives and healthcare professionals. What format social prescribing for people with MCI should take is unclear.
We received funding from the MARCH network to run a sandpit event to explore the topic. On 24th February 2020 we brought together key stakeholders from a range of backgrounds (healthcare professionals, social prescribing providers, people affected by MCI and researchers). The day was a mixture of brief presentations (on MCI and social prescribing) and group discussions. Through the group discussions, people from a range of backgrounds shared and explored ideas together. The day ended by developing ideas and questions for research, which those attending will take forward and submit for funding.
We held an online follow-up event to this original meeting in September 2020. It gave us an opportunity to update those who came to the February meeting on the development of two proposals – one on the unique contribution that the cultural sector might make to the well-being of people with MCI, and another on the perceptions of social prescribing among people affected by this condition and those involved in their care. At this meeting we ran some small group discussions on three topics proposed by those attending: a) ethics, social prescribing and MCI, b) technology, social prescribing and MCI, c) creativity and crafts and MCI.
Both events highlight an interest in and motivation to help people post MCI diagnosis, to ensure they do not feel alone or abandoned, and that there is consistency in the support they receive. Making best use of community assets through social prescribing could be a means of achieving this, taking a strengths-based approach and empowering individuals to sustain and augment their well-being.