Jun 6, 2014

Alzheimer's Care and The Importance of Bright Light

Persons living with dementia are often moody and dull. One of the best ways to counteract this is through the use of bright light.

Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Early on I made a simple observation -- for some reason my mother was always turning off lights or seeking a dimly lite place to sit. I knew there was nothing wrong with her eyes.

Over time, I began to notice that she would become dull and kind of not there  if I would allow her to sit in the dimness.

At the same time I began to notice that my mother seemed to cheer up, become more there and more responsive when I took her into, or when she sat in bright light  for long periods of times.

These lead me to the idea that bright light could be an important tool in effective Alzheimer's caregiving.

Let's just say I really started to pay attention to how my mother acted and behaved while she was in different kinds of light.

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This thought process soon lead me to the conclusion that we really needed was a combination of bright light, some exercise, lots of people near and around us (socializing in a sense, and keeping in contact with the world), and some real conversation. Discussion.

Together these were some of the keys that helped me turn Dotty from dull, listless, not there and mean

Dotty, 2005


into a person that was happier, more there, and better adjusted socially.

Dotty 2011, on her 95th birthday

There is no doubt that bright light  was a key component in Dotty's changed attitude and behavior.

I also noticed when it would start to get dusky and dim outside at the end day light, Dotty would tend to get dull, or antsy, or very negative.

To combat this  I would take Dotty out into the bright light an hour or so before dusk. Then, we got into the habit of going out into the bright light around 3 to 6 PM everyday depending on the time of year.

Sometimes we went to the pool which worked extremely well. We could get some exercise walking in the pool, and talk to people if there were any around late in the day. The simple act of getting ready to go to the pool I believe was of great benefit, just one of the ways we continued to live our life.

If the weather was bad I used places like Walmart, Target, and McDonald's to get Dotty out of the house and into some bright light.  We sometimes received smiles, kind looks, and sometimes conversation from people around us when we went to these places.  People are really really nice I learned. This helped.

While at Walmart I also stumbled onto another good idea. When we went to Walmart, I would get Dotty to drive the motorized cart. Walmart is good because the isles are wide. It is really a "hoot" watching Dotty tool around in the cart. See -- Walmart and this Alzheimer's Caregiver.

Bright light every day is an important part of effective Alzheimer's caregiving.

Have your tried using bright light to change the mood of your loved one? If not, sitting a person next to a window with the curtains wide open and and the light streaming in can make a big and immediate difference.

Hundreds of readers have emailed me and told me this works well for them.

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Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 4,700 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room