Feb 5, 2012

Confirmation of Theory: Light is Important for Persons with Alzheimer's

This study demonstrated that blue light treatment resulted in improvements in cognitive function in residents of long-term care communities. This may in turn lead to benefits in reducing the incidence of confusion, aggression, and “sundowning.”

By Carole Larkin  
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Although I don’t understand why the light has to be blue, here’s confirmation of Bob’s importance of daily light for a person with Alzheimer’s.

OBJECTIVES: To investigate the effects of light therapy on cognition, depression, sleep, and circadian rhythms in a general, non-selected population of seniors living in a long term care facility.

DESIGN: A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

SETTING: The experiment took place at a long term care facility in Pennsylvania.

PARTICIPANTS: Study participants (15 treatment, 13 placebo) were residents receiving either personal care or skilled nursing care.

INTERVENTION: Treatment consisted of approximately 400 lux of blue light administered for 30 minutes per day, Monday through Friday, for 4 weeks. The placebo was approximately 75 lux of red light generated from the same device.

MEASUREMENTS: Behavioral assessments were made using the MicroCog Assessment of Cognitive Functioning, Geriatric Depression Scale, and Profile of Mood States.

Daytime sleepiness was evaluated using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.

RESULTS: Three of the 4 composite scores from the MicroCog as well as the mean Tension/Anxiety score from the Profile of Mood States showed a significant treatment versus placebo effect. CONCLUSION: Blue light treatment led to significant cognitive improvements compared with placebo red light and may be a promising environmental intervention to reduce cognitive symptoms in elderly, long term care residents.

COMMENT: Sleep, mood, and cognitive disorders are common in older adults residing in nursing homes, assisted living, and other long-term care environments.

Nonpharmacologic interventions that can favorably impact these problems are welcome.

Drug therapies used for these conditions often cause serious adverse events (e.g., falls, delirium).

This study demonstrated that blue light treatment resulted in improvements in cognitive function in residents of long-term care communities. This may in turn lead to benefits in reducing the incidence of confusion, aggression, and "sundowning".

There were no demonstrable changes with regard to reports of daytime sleepiness or depression parameters.



Light Therapy for Seniors in Long Term Care Royer M, Ballentine NH, et al. The Journal of the American Medical Directors Association 2012; 13 (February): 100-102

From: Geriatric News, BrookdaleLiving.com

Carole Larkin MA,CMC,CAEd,QDCS,EICS,
is a Geriatric Care Manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. She also trains caregivers in home care companies, assisted livings, memory care communities, and nursing homes in dementia specific techniques for best care of dementia sufferers. ThirdAge Services LLC, is located in Dallas, TX.

More Insight and Advice for Caregivers      

Original content Carole Larkin, the Alzheimer's Reading Room