Restless dementia patients wander the hallways of care facilities at night and wake other residents, only to sleep in late and become agitated the following evening at sundown.
How to Help These Patients
These particular patients are hard to reason with. Coaxing patients back to sleep with interventions of chocolate, ice cream, and warm milk, but they often wake up again a few hours later.
Loss of memory due to Alzheimer’s can evoke fear. Other symptoms including poor sleep and anxiety can also have a significant impact on quality of life for many dementia sufferers.
Alzheimer’s patients often live in long-term care facilities, where they spend much of their time in underlit indoor spaces, leaving them in a state of “biological darkness.”
What’s the solution? More light.
A study found that exposure to the light throughout the day increased sleep quality, decreased depression and lowered agitation among the seniors.
Observations from the nurses and caregivers found that the patients were more social.They were eating and behaving better. Lighting can guide the body’s biological clock in ways that make people happier and healthier, reduce symptoms of certain diseases and promote recovery.
For seniors with Alzheimer’s, lighting interventions appear to give caretakers a powerful tool, if not a silver bullet, to reduce negative symptoms that often go hand-in-hand with a disease that affects more than 5 million people in the U.S.
How to Fix the Biological Clock
A study used circadian-lighting to keep seniors’ biological clocks in sync with the actual clock. Researchers put the bright, blue-ish lights in bedrooms and common spaces adjacent to residents’ favorite chairs and tables. The LEDs turned on automatically around the time patients woke up and switched off in the early evening to help them wind down before bed.
The seniors wore monitors to measure exposure to light. The bright light disturbed a few patients, increasing their agitation, though anti-depressants can have similar negative effects in some patients.
The vast majority of the clients, like to have a bright environments. Quite often particular patients, have a tendency to be more pleasant, more interactive with other clients and they sleep more sound during the nighttime.
What the Studies Showed
Participants’ scores on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index showed fewer sleep disturbances. Using the Cornell Scale for Depression in Dementia, patients began the experiment with an average score that correlates to mild depression and ended with an average score below that threshold. Patients’ agitation scores fell too.
A placebo light was used, below the level that would affect the circadian system for the experiment. The placebo light provided little relief from dementia symptoms. Seniors with Alzheimer’s are primed to assist lighting research because they’re relatively sedentary with access to limited spaces.
Lighting Can Change Our Lives
We can do a lot better than what we’re doing right now in designing and implementing lighting. We now have the technology. It’s energy-efficient, so if you increase the amount of light, it’s not going to hurt your pocket in terms of energy. And the benefits are very impressive.
Open up the windows, open up your shades and let daylight come. Go outside for a walk in the morning, every day, at the same time. Increasing the amount of light in the home by a factor of four, but don’t forget to turn the lights off in the evening, mimicking the sun.
Entrust of DeSoto: A Resident-centric Memory Care Community in Dallas, Texas
Entrust of DeSoto is a memory care community that puts resident well-being at the center of everything we do. We know that each person is unique. That’s why we offer a wide range of services and lifestyle options to nourish the body and create community.
We understand the importance of home cooked meals and nutrition for seniors and this attitude is reflected in our dining experience. If you or a loved one live near Dallas, Texas and need assisted living, contact Entrust of DeSoto today to learn about our 24-hour care and find out how we can help.