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New study underlines role of good lighting for Alzheimer’s sufferers.

8 August 2013 10.00 BST


(USA) - Considered light levels and colours could improve Alzheimer’s care, study shows.

Tuning institutional light levels to natural circadian rhythms can dramatically improve care for Alzheimer’s sufferers, a new study has concluded.

The study, undertaken by Mariana G Figueiro of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, USA, and published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, was carried out with the assistance of Abe’s Garden, the only Alzheimer’s community in the nation founded exclusively to develop and disseminate evidence-based, best practices in dementia care.

According to the study, typical institutional light levels are not high enough during waking hours or tuned to the correct colour to activate the circadian system in elderly people, 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.To improve the health and quality of life for individuals with ADRD, Figueiro recommends a 24-hour lighting scheme 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. ADRD disrupts higher cognitive processes and may result in significantly greater balance and coordination issues, increasing an individual’s risk for falls. Lighting modifications may reduce the risk of falls, especially at night, when light levels are low.

Funding for Figueiro’s studies was provided by Garden board members, Christopher Brown and Michael D. Shmerling, along with the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Nursing Research. Brown and Scott Muse, President of Hubbell Lighting, are leading an effort to integrate Figueiro’s research findings into the design and construction of its campus, and continue development of state of the art lighting strategies by raising $150,000 to fund the Research Office at Abe’s Garden.

“Light is the most powerful synchronizer of the human circadian clock, and the timing and type of light exposure during the course of a day is responsible for how the circadian clock is synchronized with the environment,” commented Muse. “Our industry is developing lighting products that have a positive impact on the way people live their lives, and we are pleased to work with Abe’s Garden to move those from lab to reality.”

Abe’s Garden CEO Andrew Sandler, commented: “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.”

Those wishing to contribute to Abe’s Garden can do so at www.abesgarden.org

 

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