The National Taiwan Museum and Taipei City Hospital inked a memorandum of understanding on May 7 to co-introduce "museum prescriptions" for dementia patients in Taiwan. The two parties will learn together and share their resources on training volunteers, holding events, and promoting the joint initiative to provide better quality of care for the dementia community.
According to the World Health Organization, the global number of dementia cases increases at an estimated rate of one person per three seconds. By the end of 2018, the number of people living with dementia in Taiwan was estimated at 282,364 — a figure representing roughly 1.20% of the total population. In other words, one in every 84 people in Taiwan is affected by dementia.
To provide dementia patients with an environment more conducive to their welfare, National Taiwan Museum Director Hung Shih-yu (洪世佑) and Taipei City Hospital Superintendent Huang Sheng-jean (黃勝堅) signed an MOU on May 7 pledging their respective resources to the implementation of Taiwan's first-ever "museum prescription" policy.
The prescription can be written by doctors working at any of the Taipei City Hospital branches, in which dementia patients and their caretakers receive a referral to participate in a wide range of activities organized by the National Taiwan Museum. This remedy aims to improve the quality of life and mental functions of the patients while relieving the stress of their caretakers.
Hung pointed out that culture and the arts can have a therapeutic effect on society. For example, in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Taiwan on Sept. 11, 1999 and claimed over 2,000 lives, the government held concerts and performances in a concerted effort to console the survivors. The UK government has also launched a social prescribing policy that helps patients relieve their sense of loneliness, depression, and stress via referrals to community support groups, he added.
The director stressed that museums should work on ensuring every citizen has equal access to cultural resources. Starting in February, the National Taiwan Museum began training volunteers and customer-facing employees on how to enhance the exhibition-going and participatory experience of visitors with dementia, with 32 of the trainees having completed the course so far.
By integrating cultural activities with health care, the "museum prescription" initiative represents an innovative and cooperative relationship between museums and medical centers, and the National Taiwan Museum plans to partner with other medical systems in the future to provide citizens with more friendly services.
The two co-signers of the MOU, Hung added, will continue promoting the idea of "dementia-friendliness" to help change the long-standing negative perceptions of such patients, inspire families to go on outings together to relieve the stress on caretakers, and encourage more people to create friendly communities for people living with dementia.