When you’re searching for a Memory Care community for your loved one, you have a list of requirements that must be met. Such as safety, so your loved one doesn’t get lost or injured. Compassionate staff, so your loved one’s physical and emotional needs are being taken care of. Engaging activities, so their minds are stimulated and they can live an enjoyable, happy life. But here’s something you might not have thought of that needs to be on the list, too: Proper lighting.
“Good lighting is something we all take for granted, but it plays an incredibly important role in the psychological and physiological health of Memory Care residents,” says Rob Low, Community Relations Director at YourLife™ of Pensacola. “Yes, it allows dementia patients to more easily see what’s around them, but it does so much more than that. It can help improve their mental state, their willingness to participate in activities and help them live more confidently. Poor lighting, on the other hand, can have serious effects and can actually worsen the psychological effects of dementia.”
Because dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease cause individuals to interpret the world differently, it’s important to understand how their senses react in relation to what’s going on in their brains. As we age, our eyesight naturally worsens and we need more light to see (a senior at age 75 requires twice as much light as “normal” and almost four times as much as a 20-year-old). Individuals with dementia are affected even more significantly because their brains lose the ability to process visual signals. That’s why it’s so important to understand how these individuals receive light and what benefits good lighting has on their physical, mental and emotional health.
Reduce Anxiety, Increase Confidence
Dark places can be scary. Which is why one of the biggest benefits of proper lighting is chasing away that fear. Our brains process dark spots as “ominous” and “terrifying” (probably a throwback to our childhood nightmares or, going back even further, our lizard brain reminding us that snakes and other dangers lurk in the shadows). For individuals with dementia, dark spots can cause anxiety and distress because of that intuitive fear of the dark. By properly lighting rooms so that there’s consistent, even lighting throughout, we’re able to reduce that fear, causing stress to drop and giving dementia care residents a better understanding of their surroundings.
Lighting Tip: Make sure lights are evenly spaced and that the right amount of light is present. Use a balance of overhead lighting, natural light and lamps to help illuminate and brighten any space, no matter how small.
Improve Sleep Patterns
Our body runs on a 24-hour clock, which is known as the circadian rhythm. Too much or too little light can throw this rhythm off, which can lead to depression, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, anger, stress and the like. These days, with all the different screens in our lives from phones to TVs to computers and more, it’s easy for our circadian rhythms to be hijacked.
For individuals with dementia, who are not always able to be outside as often as is needed and are inside under artificial light for most of the time, proper lighting can mimic the patterns of natural light. For example, warm orange and red colors can be used to imitate sunrise, which helps wake up the body in the morning. Bright, white light at noon and early afternoon are like the full light of the sun, and repeating the orange/red signal in the evening mirrors the sunset, helping the body to settle into sleepytime mode. By using a light cycle that simulates light’s natural rhythms, the circadian rhythms of dementia patients can be more regulated, which can help reduce wandering and allow them to sleep better – which makes for happier, calmer, more content seniors. Don’t forget about the importance of natural light, however! Having safe access to outdoor space (or even simply having lots of windows) helps maintain the body’s natural rhythm best of all.
Lighting tip: Don’t forget about the importance of proper lighting at night! Having appropriate lights (think lights close to the floor that “direct” the individual to the bathroom or other important areas) will allow loved ones to navigate safely and reduce the risk of falling.
Improve Ability to Perform Tasks
Since it becomes harder for seniors to see as they age, more direct, bright lighting is necessary in order for them to successfully complete daily tasks like bathing, brushing teeth, reading and navigating. Providing “task lighting” (bright lights that chase away shadows) that allow dementia patients to perform tasks more surely, it will be easier for them to be successful, which will increase confidence and reduce anxiety and stress.
Lighting tip: Consider motion-activated spotlights or overhead lights over the sink, in the bathroom or in areas that are important but your loved one doesn’t go often. That means they won’t have to fumble for a light switch!
Provides Emotional Cues and Signals
There’s a reason it’s called “mood lighting,” and any good film director will tell you that light can be used to create the atmosphere you want. The right lighting can cue individuals with dementia, whether consciously or unconsciously, to feel more comfortable and sure of what their reactions should be.
Lighting tip: Make bedrooms warm and welcoming with softer light, and avoid sudden changes in light level, which can be jarring. Be sure to avoid glare as much as possible, because it can cause visual confusion and difficulty with depth perception.
Boost Moods and Improve Health
Recent studies have shown that bright light can help improve the symptoms of dementia, especially bright daytime lighting. It’s been shown to limit cognitive decline slightly, reduce depression symptoms moderately and slow the progression of functional limitations by more than half of those studied.
Lighting tip: Be sure to have seniors spend time outside or by the windows, even on cloudy days. Even a few minutes of sunlight stimulates Vitamin D production, which increases muscle performance and bone strength. Daylight also helps reduce the risk of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).
For more information about the psychological effects of light in Memory Care residents, please contact our team today at 850-898-3334.
The Memory Care Your Loved One Deserves.
Offering the very best in Memory Care, YourLife™ of Pensacola was designed specifically with residents in mind. We’ve created a community where residents can define their own lifestyle, based on their preferences, needs and story, all while having the peace of mind of 24-hour support and the freedom to define their own lifestyles.
Because we focus solely on Memory Care, all of our resources and attention are on catering to each resident’s needs while providing unequaled peace of mind for families. Our licensed nurses and YourLife™ Personal Care Specialists are on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to provide personally inspired care and support, no matter what your needs. With such dedicated care, our residents have the support they need to live as independently and engaged as possible.
At YourLife™ of Pensacola, YourStory comes to life. Whether you want to enjoy our exclusive activities and YourStory programming, spend time exploring our services and amenities, relax in our easy-to-navigate Memory Care neighborhoods and living areas or try something new, the choice is entirely up to you. Contact us to learn more!