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In Wales, people living with dementia, and their carers, are being offered fiction as well as self-help books to help them manage the condition, explains Debbie Hicks.

Photo of three people holding books

A new chapter in the fight against dementia in Wales began in July with the launch of the Reading Well Books on Prescription scheme. It provides a range of books via public libraries, aimed at fostering a better understanding of the disease.

The Reading Agency has developed the specially curated list of books in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians Cymru, and with funding from the Welsh Government.

The books include titles of fiction, memoir and photographic books for reminiscence therapy

The collection of books includes information and advice for people living with the condition and their carers, as well as those who may be interested or concerned about their memory. There are also titles of fiction, memoir and photographic books for 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.

Dementia in Wales

Here are some facts about the increase of cases of dementia in Wales:

  • Recent studies estimate that there are between 38,444 and 55,829 people living with dementia.
  • 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia.
  • 70% of people in care homes have dementia or severe memory problems.
  • There are approximately 2,500 people under 65 who have dementia.

By 2021, the number of people with dementia is projected to increase by 31%, and by as much as 44% in some rural areas.

Benefits of the scheme

Reading Well has been delivered in England in partnership with Libraries Connected since 2013, and has already reached 778,000 people. Titles can be recommended by a health professional or on a self-referral basis, and are free for anyone to borrow from their local library.

The scheme has delivered significant patient benefit in England. A survey into its effectiveness last year found the following:

  • 96% of people found the book they were reading helpful or very helpful.
  • 73% agreed it had increased their understanding of the number and range of sources of support available.
  • 65% agreed that the book had helped them to understand more about the condition.
  • 57% felt that the book helped them to care for someone with dementia.

Welsh language books

We are also working with the Welsh Books Council to make the books available in Welsh for the first time, with funding from the Welsh Government. This will begin with the books for dementia, followed by books for adult mental health in 2019.

Debbie Hicks is Creative Director of The Reading Agency.

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Photo of Debbie Hicks