Simply increasing the amount of light in your home, both natural and artificial, can make a huge difference to someone coping with dementia suggests Professor June Andrews, Director of the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) at the University of Stirling.
Physiological changes in the body mean that everybody’s eyesight deteriorates slowly but surely over their lifetime. People over 75 require twice as much light to see comfortably than normal lighting standards require, and nearly 4 times as much as an average 20 year old.
Add to this the challenges that dementia throws at you, such as difficulties with spatial awareness, problems adjusting to contrasts of light, and fear of falling, and the need for clear bright light becomes obvious.
People with dementia are usually older, and the older we are the more likely it is that we will start to have impairments of eyesight.
The lens, the clear part of the front of the eye, yellows over time, so it is as if the older person sees the world through a pair of yellow goggles that get thicker every year. Every older person needs to have more light to counteract this, but it is even more important if the person has dementia.
In dementia the person finds it harder to remember where anything has been put, so having lots of light means they don’t have to remember so much because they can see.
Simply increasing the level of light can therefore make a very real difference to a person’s comfort and ease of life.
Here are our suggestions for 5 easy ways to flood your home with light...
Check your light bulbs!
Make sure you use bulbs of the maximum wattage that each of your light fittings will safely take. Now is not the time for dim, mood lighting, and remember that older energy saving lightbulbs that you may have had for several years lose their luminosity over time, (as well as often being very slow to brighten up) so it may well be useful to change them even if they are, technically, still working fine.
Modern LED bulbs give out a good clear light, and because they work on a very low wattage, can prove an effective way to increase the amount of light your lamp, wall light or chandelier can generate.
Consider replacing some of your light fittings.
Replacing a single pendant fitting with a 3 arm chandelier, or a 3 arm arm chandelier with a 5 arm one needn’t be expensive but could make a significant difference to the amount of light given out.
Add a lamp or angle-poise light.
This could brighten a dark corner and help prevent potential trips or falls, or provide specific task lighting where it is needed to aid focus and concentration.
Investigate the use of light sensors.
An increasing range of sensors are now available. Some provide the reassurance of allowing you to leave the electric lights on all the time, ensuring there will always be an adequate supply of light, with the sensor simply switching the lights off if the natural light reaches a required level.
Other sensors are motion operated which could be useful to light specific pathways such as a dark hallway and up the stairs, or the way from the bedroom to the bathroom.
Maximize natural daylight.
Daylight helps you produce the hormone melatonin which is responsible for setting your internal body clock, making it easier to sleep at night. In older age, and particularly in those with dementia, production of melatonin is reduced, which is why people with dementia often turn night into day. Increasing exposure to daylight is therefore a good thing. Clean the glass in you windows, remove obstacles and vegetation that may be blocking light entering the window from outside, and remove heavy blinds and/or curtains that obscure the window inside.
If direct sunlight produces annoying glare, simple lightweight net curtains can solve the problem without reducing the light. They also have the added advantage of preventing the glass in the windows becoming like a mirror at night, which can be disorientating for someone with dementia, reducing the chance of them misinterpreting their own reflection and becoming upset.
Professor June Andrews has an international reputation for her work in dementia research and development of methods to improve care for those living with the condition. Our suggestions here about ways to improve lighting levels in the home are taken from her most recent publication "Dementia : The One Stop Guide" .
Click here for a full book review.
Article courtesy of Local Dementia Guide