Lighting for Individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease

Mariana G. Figueiro, Ph.D., of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., recently published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease her findings on lighting for individuals with Alzheimer’s.

Nashville, Tenn.-based Abe’s Garden, the only Alzheimer’s community in the nation founded exclusively to develop and disseminate evidence-based, best practices in dementia care, assisted in the publishing of Dr. Figueiro’s research. Abe’s Garden board members, Christopher Brown and Michael D. Shmerling, along with the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Nursing Research, provided funding for the studies.

Dr. Figueiro’s research focuses on two key principles: sleep issues and safety concerns. Abe’s Garden CEO Andrew Sandler, Ph.D., notes that this research will be integrated into the campus design, programming and construction, as well as additional distinction in residential memory care.

Dr. Figueiro’s research is based on the following principles:

Sleep Issues
Typical institutional light levels are not high enough or tuned to the correct color to activate the circadian system of older persons, often resulting in sleep disruption. This disruption causes changes in sleep patterns, confusion in daily routines, decreased alertness and mood alteration resulting in feelings of depression. Abnormal sleep patterns tend to increase with the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) and are associated with aggressive behavior and caregiver stress.

Safety Concerns
Seniors’ injuries resulting from falls have long been a public health concern. Lighting modifications can reduce the risk of falls, especially throughout the night, when light levels are low. Fall risks are even greater in people with ADRD, which disrupts higher cognitive processes, resulting in significantly lower balance and coordination.

24-Hour Lighting Scheme
To improve the health and quality of life of individuals with ADRD, Dr. Figueiro recommends a 24-hour lighting scheme. This should be designed to provide high circadian stimulation during the day, low circadian stimulation at night, good visual conditions during waking hours, and nightlights that are safe and minimize sleep disruption.

Such a lighting system should include nightlights that accentuate pathways to resident suite restrooms, motion sensors on nightlights, and amber or low-level white light to allow residents to safely navigate at night without sleep disruption.

Dr. Figueiro’s research findings were also published in LD+A The Magazine of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America. Here, she notes the importance of additional testing of this novel lighting system, and Abe’s Garden is proud to be a leading partner in this initiative.

Dr. Sandler adds “Although there is currently no method to prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease, there is expanding interest in it. Abe’s Garden is a pioneer in the field, integrating research and applying best practices to care that will improve the lives of persons with Alzheimer’s, their care partners and families,”

About the Author

Beth Zeitlin
Beth Zeitlin is director, Marketing and Development, for Nashville, Tenn.-based Abe’s Garden, an Alzheimer’s community founded exclusively to develop and disseminate evidence-based, best practices in dementia care. Zeitlin joined Abe’s Garden because she was disturbed by the lack of an appropriate care environment for her aunt who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Zeitlin has 27 years of experience in development, sales, marketing and public relations, working with nonprofit and for profit organizations, including the Nashville Symphony, Shirley Zeitlin and Company Realtors, the Nashville Convention Center and the Nashville Zoo.

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