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Dementia-friendly Lighting

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

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.