Category Archives: Memory Care

Dementia-friendly Lighting

Improving the well-being of those living with memory loss

We know what happens when we lose a significant amount of sleep—that mid-afternoon lag we may normally experience extends throughout the day. We feel drowsy and likely a bit irritable.

The blame is a disruption to what is called our circadian rhythm. And, this circadian rhythm is even more sensitive in people who live with memory loss. The answer to helping them sleep better and live a healthier life is in dementia-friendly lighting.

The best lighting for someone with dementia

While the obvious symptom of dementia is memory loss, the disease affects people in many other ways. Between 40% and 70% of seniors suffer from a sleep disorder. That’s exacerbated in people with dementia, who tend to sleep more during the day and are awake nearly half the night.

This causes them to feel anxious, irritable and aggressive. It can also increase their chances of falling—those with dementia are three times more likely to fall than other seniors. Unless and until medical advancements can be made to reverse dementia’s symptoms, we need to enhance residents’ environment to improve their well-being.

One way to do that is through lighting. Light affects a person’s system the entire 24 hours of the day—proper lighting has the ability to activate a person’s circadian rhythm, which releases melatonin, the hormone that regulates normal sleep cycles. In general, the more natural light—and the less artificial light—seniors with memory loss are exposed to, the healthier they will be.

And because the average amount of time the elderly spend outside is just one hour a day (it’s much less for those living in a memory care facility), it’s imperative to bring natural light indoors or install lighting that can stimulate the circadian rhythm.

A bonus: Your employees will likely feel better, as well, which can lead to greater job satisfaction.

Studies prove value of dementia-friendly lighting

Many studies have been done on how lighting can help those living with memory loss in long-term care facilities. In these studies, special lighting simulates natural daylight patterns. These studies have had positive results—the residents reportedly slept better and experienced less anxiety.

At Community Living Solutions, we are conducting our own lighting case study at St. Paul Elder Services’ memory care facility. See how we hope to improve the residents’ lives through lighting techniques:

How to improve lighting at your facility

The best lighting for someone with dementia is beneficial for any senior living at or visiting your facility. By the time a person enters a care facility, they are, on average, between 83 and 86 years old. Their eyes are challenged—they have difficulty differentiating colors and patterns, and they are sensitive to light and glare.

If you are considering a facility update, think about your site’s layout and the needs of your population when planning lighting design. Some best practices include:

  • Provide access to daylight in common areas, including dining and activity rooms.
  • Ensure lobbies and vestibules are well lit so that seniors—both your residents and visitors—can adjust easily when transitioning from sunlight.
  • If you have a space where seniors may transition from bright to low light, provide chairs so that they can sit while their eyes adjust.
  • Use controls to change interior light colors to more closely follow the daylight hues that match residents’ circadian rhythm.
  • Use shades on windows that are at the end of a corridor.
  • Provide task lighting in resident rooms.
  • Use controls to reduce corridor lighting at night so residents sleep better.
  • Use amber-colored night lights that help continue melatonin production during middle-of-the-night trips to the restroom.
  • Have sufficient lighting and try to minimize shadows in outdoor parking areas and walkways to eliminate safety hazards for visitors.

Ask us how to help

Because we design and build only senior living communities, we understand the needs and health challenges of your residents. If you are looking to install dementia-friendly lighting or update your facility to better serve your memory care population, request a free consultation by completing our contact form or calling 920-969-9344.

Clark County Senior Living Construction Project

Clark County Rehabilitation & Living Center opens

Community Living Solutions and the Clark County Rehabilitation & Living Center in Owen, Wis., celebrated the opening of the senior living facility’s short-term rehabilitation suites on Feb. 15. CLS broke ground on the 23,570-square-foot, single-story addition in May 2018.

The new addition connects to the existing 1920s-era building. CLS’s senior living design included creating a new main entryway featuring a drive-under canopy to make patient drop-off and pick-up easier, especially during inclement weather.

The new addition also includes:

  • A physical therapy gym
  • 16 private short-term rehabilitation rooms with private baths
  • 16 private long-term care rooms with private baths

“Our goal in designing the Clark County Rehabilitation & Living Center was to remind residents of home so that they can lead more active, healthy lives,” said Aaron Klug, CLS architectural production manager. “The senior living design features household living rooms, private dining options, a country kitchen and more. We anticipate the facility will be in demand as area residents consider their options for short- and long-term care.”

The Clark County Rehabilitation & Living Center has served the county since 1922. In addition to short-term rehabilitation, assisted living and long-term care, it specializes in memory care, geriatric psychiatric care and care for the intellectually disabled.

Senior living construction is our specialty

If you are looking to expand your senior living facility, give us a call. We have expertise in incorporating new designs into existing spaces. Contact us at 920-969-9344 to schedule a complimentary consultation. We’d love to talk!

Designing Senior Living Facilities to Nurture Socialization

How social connections keep seniors healthy

Social connections are important at any stage in life—we all need human interactions to be our best selves. But as we age, the number of interactions and connections we have declines, whether by choice, poor health, or the death of friends and loved ones. Feelings of loneliness can be heightened when seniors move into long-term care, even though they are surrounded by people. Leaving the familiarity of their home and neighborhood, coupled with declines in physical and cognitive health, can make them feel more disconnected than ever. That’s why designing senior living facilities to nurture social interaction is so important.

Socialization for better health

Being lonely can have a profound effect on health, especially in the elderly. Loneliness not only can lead to depression and stress, but it’s also been shown to cause memory loss, reduced mobility and even death. Some compare its effects to unhealthy habits, like smoking or lack of physical activity. Plus, the World Health Organization has designated it a major health issue.

But by simply engaging in meaningful conversations, seniors can feel more joy and optimism in their lives. Social interactions may set the tone for a desire to do more, like engaging in physical activity, eating better foods and participating in activities. That’s how social connections keep seniors healthy. And even though seniors may experience loss of social connections as they age, they find more satisfaction in the relationships they do have.

How senior living facility design can help

Enhancing socialization among your residents involves more than ensuring you’ve scheduled a variety of programming that appeals to residents. While programming is significant, the configuration and design of your building impacts how welcoming your facility feels and how easily residents can interact.

For example, bigger isn’t always better. Seniors are likely leaving a home or apartment that is much smaller than most care facilities, the size of which can feel overwhelming. So, a large space, like a lobby or multipurpose space, may not succeed as an ideal place to socialize depending upon its layout, lighting and furniture selection.

When designing senior living facilities, it’s important to think about available spaces like neighborhoods:

  • Consider remodeling a large facility into a series of smaller spaces that include six to eight rooms or apartments to foster a greater sense of community.
  • Make common areas easy to get to and navigate. Residents will socialize more if their destination is just a short walk away.
  • Reduce or eliminate long hallways. Shorter hallways may contribute to residents meeting by chance and engaging in conversation.
  • Reduce the overwhelming feeling of an open space by defining areas within it. This can be done with design details like columns or décor like flooring and furniture placement.
  • Have an open line of sight to the outdoors. Natural light does wonders for residents’ mood.
  • Consider adding memory boxes outside each room if you don’t have them already. While they are generally considered helpful for triggering memories for those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, they also can serve as a conversation starter.

As you can see from these tips, the more your space reflects a sense of community, the more comfortable and secure your residents will feel. And, ultimately, they will be healthier and happier (and so will their families!).

Is it time for a facility remodel or addition?

In just 15 short years, it’s estimated that 20 percent of Americans will be over the age of 65. As those seniors enter their 70s and 80s, it’s more likely they and their children will be searching for long-term care options. Improve your marketability with an up-to-date facility design that is flexible to meet changing needs in coming decades. We can help! Designing senior living facilities is all we do. Call us at (920) 969-9344 or visit our Contact page to schedule a free consultation.

The Power of Light and Space in Dementia-friendly Environments

Designing space and lighting solutions for memory care facilities

In creating a dementia-friendly environment, the right lighting and space design can have an incredibly positive effect on resident quality of life. In fact, both artificial and natural light, as well as space design, can have an impact on emotional and psychological well-being.

How we integrate lighting design into dementia care homes

At Community Living Solutions, we’re dedicated to designing and building senior living communities that get to the heart of what our clients and their residents need. And when it comes to designing dementia-friendly environments, lighting design plays an integral role in not only creating a peaceful, healing environment but also making life easier for those who care for the residents.

Dementia care is complex and can be challenging to manage. So how is it possible that lighting and space—construction aspects that seem deceptively simple—make a difference? The answers may surprise you.

Biodynamic lighting allows us to harness daylight’s biological effects even in an environment with artificial lighting, like senior living communities. These biological effects are profound. Reduced exposure to daylight can lead to sleep problems, mood disorders and chronic fatigue. Meanwhile, biodynamic lighting allows us to mimic the variations of natural daylight through intentional design and light management. From a design and construction perspective, opportunities abound.

First, it’s important to note how lighting is shown to make a significant difference in the lives of senior living residents, in particular residents with dementia.

Tailored lighting intervention is proven to help those living with dementia

According to a recent 12-week study of multiple dementia care communities, increasing indoor exposure to daylight was shown to reduce depression among residents. More, it’s been found that exposure to the right amount of daylight is an effective non-drug treatment for those with dementia. Designing a space that allows for increased daylight exposure for residents could then feasibly improve quality of life for the 20 to 30 percent of individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD).

In addition, appropriately tailored lighting has been shown to alleviate sleep disturbances. Among individuals with ADRD, nighttime wandering is a common concern. By reducing sleep disturbances through lighting design for dementia care homes, facilities can also reduce this phenomenon. Less wandering results in a reduced risk of dangerous falls. Also, a tailored lighting design or intervention that stimulates the resident’s natural sleep and wakefulness cycles are shown to decrease what’s known as “sundowning,” or late-day confusion among dementia patients, while improving behavioral problems and lessening agitation.  One recent study on lighting and Alzheimer’s patients showed at the end of just four weeks of lighting intervention, sleep disturbance and depression dropped significantly, and by the end of six months, sleep disturbance and depression scores dropped by half. Other studies have mirrored these findings while also noting decreased agitation scores.

The power of human-centric lighting

We all know that feeling we get when we’re outdoors and the sun just begins to dip below the horizon, the drowsiness that accompanies a rainy day or the joy of seeing the sun spread its golden light across the horizon in the morning. The role light plays in our mood and wellbeing is proven to us time and again, almost without us noticing it. With human-centric lighting, we design lighting while keeping in mind how it affects the many aspects of our lives. That means human-centric lighting is designed to optimize:

  • Mood
  • Productivity
  • Perception
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Visual acuity
  • Sustainability

How well we can see is central to a number of our needs, from our sense of safety and wellbeing to our health, mood, task performance, social communication and aesthetic judgment. As a result, how we see and perceive our environment impacts our emotions, motivations, behavior and even our long-term memory.

Through biodynamic lighting in design for dementia care homes, we are able to send the appropriate cues to our bodies by mimicking the appropriate outdoor lighting for everything from dawn to daylight to dusk, including the nuances of an overcast sky, mid-afternoon sun rays and even sunset. Lighting “dose” can be adjusted for intensity, duration, timing and more, and it can be customized for individual environments, including resident rooms, community rooms and general areas.

Recommendations for creating dementia-friendly environments with light

Now that we recognize the potential for lighting in senior living environments and how it factors in dementia care, here are some recommendations for designing and building a dementia-friendly environment.

  • Maximize resident exposure to daylight during the day, but especially in the morning
  • Evenly illuminate spaces, to minimize contrast and especially shadows
  • Minimize exposure to blue-rich light sources after 8 p.m.
  • Use amber, or warm light sources, after sunset
  • Create dark environments for sleeping
  • Avoid using artificial light sources during the night
  • Be mindful of quality of life over quantity of light

Facility design for dementia care homes

In addition to lighting interventions, use of space and purposeful wandering capability for residents improves quality of life for individuals with dementia. From an architectural perspective, it’s important to design a home-like environment for residents, one which engages the senses, reduces confusion and feels familiar. Common areas that feel homey, including living room-like spaces and comfortable dining areas, go a long way in comparison to the hospital-like environments in the past.

Purposeful wandering has been shown to reduce agitation and confusion. Incorporating purposeful wandering into your design can be done in several ways:

  • Minimize dead-end corridors
  • Create activity areas to encourage movement
  • Design nourishment areas where residents have easy access to snacks
  • Develop sitting nodes, for a sense of place
  • Build interior, secured courtyards as a special focus for community spaces, and a safe place for residents to connect with nature
  • Organize life stations for residents to display familiar images and items
  • Incorporate memory boxes into wall spaces

Lighting and space: new frontiers in building a dementia-friendly environment

At Community Living Solutions, we’re eager to help you design the future of your dementia care home. From lighting to space design and more, our experts are ready to help you create a senior living community that provides the highest possible quality of life for residents while achieving your business goals.

If you are interested in seeing how we can help you develop senior care solutions and design for dementia care homes, request a consultation through our Contact page or call us at (920) 969-9344.

5 Tips for Dementia Garden Design

Use outdoor spaces to create positive senior community living experiences

Gardens and other thriving outdoor spaces provide significant benefits to residents in senior living communities. For residents who have a passion for gardening, giving them opportunities to tend flowers and vegetables not only keeps them physically active, it also stimulates the brain. This is especially true for those living with memory loss. Even if they don’t spend time digging in the dirt, having the opportunity to relax in an outdoor garden space offers numerous health benefits.

If you are interested in adding an outdoor space to your facility, we have several dementia garden design tips, whether you are planning one for your current facility or are considering one for an upcoming construction project.

Why a dementia garden is important

It’s estimated that 7.7 million people are diagnosed with dementia annually throughout the world. A majority of those living with memory loss reside in a senior living community. And, a 2014 study found that residents with memory loss—as well as their families and facility staff—benefited greatly from having access to outdoor gardens.

Specifically, the study found that outdoor spaces:

  • Promote relaxation
  • Encourage physical and mental activity
  • Stimulate multiple senses
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Trigger fond memories

In fact, according to one horticulture expert, the sense of smell from fresh herbs and flowers connects “to the limbic system in our brain, which affects memory and mood.” And, happier, less stressed dementia residents are likely to have a positive effect on the mood of your staff and their families.

Studies also have found that just having a view of nature helped surgery patients recover faster and take less medication than patients who did not have access to a natural setting. Therefore, those who are recovering from an illness or medical procedure would benefit from access to outdoor spaces.

The importance of dementia garden design

As you consider planning for a garden and other outdoor spaces, keep these dementia garden ideas in mind:

  • Provide residents easy access, especially for those who are less ambulatory, to the garden from your facility. If you have enough space, set up pathways so that residents can walk shorter or longer routes, depending upon their abilities.
  • Consider creating an outdoor space with a circular design, including paths that guide residents. Dead-end pathways can cause confusion and anxiety.
  • Develop the garden in an area that can be easily seen from indoors. Includes plants that have visual appeal throughout all seasons, such as shrubs or ornamental trees that sprout red berries in the fall and winter. Include bird boxes and feeders for an added attraction.
  • Include seating and shade for those with less stamina. Seating also provides a reason to sit and visit with family and friends. You may also consider water fountains in these areas for added sensory stimulation and relaxation.
  • Include low-maintenance plants that also are easily recognized by your residents. This will help trigger their memories of their homes and a time when they tended to gardens of their own.
  • Avoid potential hazards like steps and slippery material surfaces, ensuring safe and secure pathways that incorporate decorative railings and fences.

Activities beyond the dementia garden

Besides giving residents the opportunity to tend to flowers, vegetables and other plants, having a garden at your facility offers ideas for other activities:

  • Ask a local florist to teach a basic flower arranging class using flowers from your garden. Display the arrangements throughout your facility or gift them to other residents or staff members. Participants will benefit from making social connections, as well as from physical and mental stimulation.
  • Host events in your garden, such as a garden party, a picnic or even a movie night.
  • Considering decorating the garden for each holiday. Seek help from residents whenever possible.

Ask us for a consultation

If you are considering a dementia garden design for your senior living community, or would like to evaluate your outdoor space, contact us or call (920) 969-9344 to schedule a free introductory meeting.

If you care for those living with memory loss, you may also be interested in reading our Interior Design for Dementia Homes blog.