Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia – which is known, collectively, as “ADRD” – is becoming increasingly prevalent. In the United States alone, there are currently 5 million sufferers. By the year 2025, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that number will increase to 7 million. It is becoming increasingly important for care facilities that specialize in treating Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias – assisted living facilities, memory care units, nursing homes, and adult day care centers – to place a special emphasis on designing those facilities in such a way that they factor in and consider the unique needs of the ADRD patients in which they serve. In this two-part series, we here at Hardcore Electric will expound on several significant points that should be considered when creating Alzheimer’s disease and dementia care facilities – in terms of lighting.
The Most Common of Mental Disorders
Before delving into details associated with lighting considerations for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and/or dementia, it is first important to express the fact that these brain diseases are now considered to be the most common of all mental disorders. Patients suffering from these serious medical issues often experience complications with disruptions to the normal sleep-wake pattern, are known to experience moderate to severe bouts of nocturnal wandering, suffer from agitation, may become verbally abusive, and may even resort to physical violence. In fact, these troublesome challenges are the most common reasons why patients with these brain diseases are transitioned into care facilities. As the disease advances, abnormal sleep patterns worsen. As a result, more highly aggressive behavior is likely to occur in the daytime hours. Studies have now confirmed that utilizing non-pharmacological treatment options – such as light therapy and the installation of certain types of lighting within Alzheimer’s and dementia care units – are gaining in popularity and are providing substantial benefits to patients, as well as those that care for those patients. Additionally, lighting is relatively inexpensive – compared to medications – and it is much safer, resulting in far fewer risks when it comes to side effects.
It is a known fact that most individuals with Alzheimer’s and related dementias experience disruptions to their circadian rhythm. This is a cycle that is slightly over 24 hours that is directly involved in the physiological processes of the living. While considered to be that which is generated endogenously, it has been found that it can be directly impacted by external factors – such as light and temperature. Brain wave activity, the regeneration of cells, the production of hormones, and other biological-based activities are directly linked to the circadian rhythm. Blue lights are specially designed to stimulate the blue coloring of the sky, which actually triggers individuals to wake up.
In addition to stimulating individuals to wake up, blue lights have the capability of increasing melatonin production at night. Melatonin is a special hormone that is created by a special gland in the brain, the pineal gland. If a patient’s melatonin levels are increased at appropriate times and in conjunction with the circadian rhythm, the individual is likely to experience a higher-quality sleep and for the proper number of hours for their needs. Individuals that experience complications in melatonin production will display interruptions in sleep patterns. In patients with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia, this could result in mood swings, aggression, and similar types of behavioral issues.