Books prescribed to help tackle dementia in Wales

10 July 2018: A new chapter in the fight against dementia in Wales has begun, with the launch of Reading Well Books on Prescription for dementia providing a unique range of books via public libraries, aimed at fostering a better understanding of the disease.

Funded by the Welsh Government, the specially curated list of books is delivered by The Reading Agency in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians Cymru and is endorsed by health professionals. The charity is working with the Welsh Books Council to make the books available in Welsh, for the first time.

The initiative will be officially launched at the European Association for Health Information and Libraries (EAHIL) conference in Cardiff on 11 July 2018, in support of the Welsh Government’s new Dementia Action Plan for Wales.

Welsh broadcaster Beti George, who has first-hand experience of living with Alzheimer’s having cared for her late partner David Parry-Jones, will be a keynote speaker at the launch.

Free to borrow from all Welsh libraries

The Reading Well for dementia books will be free to borrow from all Welsh libraries from this summer. They include information and advice for people living with dementia and their carers, or anyone worried about their memory. There is also fiction, memoir and photographic books used in reminiscence therapy.

The scheme has been endorsed by people with experience of dementia and their carers, health professionals, leading dementia charities and government ministers, as a helpful community-based health service. Reading Well has been delivered in England since 2013 and has already reached 778,000 people. Anyone can be recommended a title by a health professional or access the books free from their local library.

“I’m sure this intervention will make a big difference”

Vaughan Gething, Health Secretary at the Welsh Government, said: “The Welsh Government’s dementia action plan outlines our priorities for action in achieving a dementia friendly nation and is supported by an additional £10m investment. The Reading Well scheme will help people understand and manage their own health and wellbeing using self-help interventions. Our dementia action plan also recognises the importance of people receiving care and support in their preferred language, so it is very important that these books are also available in Welsh.”

Beti George, who presents a programme on BBC Radio Cymru called Beti a’i Phobol, said: “David was an avid reader from childhood. He read right up to the end. And it was his books that kept him content and on an even keel, which made my life as a carer that much easier.”

Welsh speaking Hollywood actor, Julian Lewis Jones, who starred in Invictus and Justice League, is a supporter of the initiative: “My grandmother lived with dementia for a number of years and it was heart-breaking. I’m sure that this intervention will make a big difference.

I come from a Welsh speaking background and I know that my grandmother would have found comfort in books in her mother tongue. If I ever get ill, I know that I would love the fact that there’s somebody there able to read to me in Welsh.”

Written by experts or those with experience of the condition

The initiative was originally devised in Wales by consultant clinical psychologist and author Professor Neil Frude, who said: “Prescribing the books for people living with dementia and their carers is a great innovation from The Reading Agency, and I am delighted that it’s coming to Wales.

“All the books are written by professional experts or those who have experience of living with dementia. People living with dementia don’t necessarily use the internet, so books can be more reassuring and accessible to them.

“It’s important to have the same information for both those that speak Welsh and English. Welsh people living with dementia may find it easier and more comfortable to speak in their first language.”

“We are delighted that these brilliant books are being translated into Welsh for the first time”

Debbie Hicks, Creative Director at The Reading Agency, said:

“A dementia diagnosis can be a difficult and lonely experience for all concerned. Reading Well provides helpful reading available in the safe and trusted space of the local library, supporting people to live well, manage caring responsibilities and connect with the experiences of others. We are delighted that these brilliant books are being translated into Welsh for the first time enabling the scheme to reach more people with the proven power of reading.”

Nicola Pitman, SCL Cymru, said:

“It has been an ambition of SCL Cymru for several years to revitalise the Books on Prescription scheme in Wales. There is much evidence that bibliotherapy can deliver so many benefits to those affected by a whole raft of health conditions and of course we are passionate about making sure Libraries play a key role in enhancing the health and wellbeing of the communities that we all serve. We are so pleased that the launch of Reading Well – Dementia will ensure that the scheme will provide support to the growing number of people affected by Dementia within Wales.”

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