Nov 26, 2015

Alzheimer's Care, The Importance of Bright Light

I often get asked by Alzheimer's caregivers for advice, insight and tips. I've been asked in person, via email or by the media so many times that I narrowed my list down to five recommendations.

Bright Light Alzheimer's Reading Room

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

My list of five recommendations were developed as I worked with Dotty, and as I observed the positive effects of each of these tips.

These five things make a difference in the quality of life that Dotty lives each day.

As many of you know that have been with us for a while -- a dramatic positive effect on Dotty's ability to communicate and live her life.

Number five on my list is the importance of bright light. I took Dotty into bright light every day. I believe this is imperative, important, and that it helps her to be more there.

Most people that know Dotty and me for a long time were often surprised to see how Dotty was doing.

Even though Dotty was in the moderate to severe stage of Alzheimer's disease she was still able to live her life. We lived our life one day at time, and we lived our life the way we did before Alzheimer's disease. We choose to do this many years ago.

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Keep in mind, I am not a doctor. I am an Alzheimer's caregiver and I am an observer.

As it turns out, my education and background made me ideally suited to observe behavior and to look for solutions to problems that most Alzheimer's caregivers face. Since I am a full time caregiver, I had the time to research, test, and implement my ideas.

Early on I made a simple observation -- Dotty would sit in dim light or dark light and read. I suppose you could say she either preferred low light, or she just didn't know she is sitting in the dim.

Here is how I first started thinking about "bright light." 

We would go to the doctor for our appointment and most often Dotty would be dull and "not really there" when we left home.

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When we arrived at the doctors' office it was not unusual for us to sit in the waiting room for 20 minutes or more. The waiting room is well lit.

The next step occurred when the nurse would check out Dotty and ask me questions after we were put into an examination room. This room is well lit and has windows that allow the sunlight to come in.

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It was not unusual for Dotty to ask me several times while we were going through this process if we could go home. You probably heard that one also.

By the time the doctor would come in to check on Dotty her mood would be improving. It was not unusual for Dotty to start smiling when the doctor enters the room.

This transition takes place between the time we leave home and the time the doctor finally sees Dotty. Always more than an hour.

One day I said to the our doctor, I wish I could bring her here every day. Her mood really improves when we are here.

One day after the doctor visit I was sitting around thinking about the change in Dotty, the light bulb went on in my head. Light bulb, ironic huh?

I jumped on the Internet and started to read up on bright light.

I learned that bright light can have a positive effect on persons suffering from Alzheimer's disease. 

I also learned it can have a positive effect on all of us.

This one was a no brainier. Dotty needed bright light and so did I.

I decided that I wanted to create an experience that was very similar to what we were doing when we went for a doctor appointment.

The elements: bright light, some exercise, people, and lots of communication. Simple communication. The kind of communication that people engage in every day.

Those of you that know us well know that if you called me in the late afternoon or early evening (depending on time of year) you won't get me.

The reason is simple. I take Dotty out into the bright light every day. Mostly I take her outdoors. Sitting in the car riding got Dotty a good dose of bright light (we live in south Florida).

Sometimes we get out of the car and sit around in the sun and have a coffee or an ice cream cone. We also go to the pool as often as we can -- excellent source of bright light.

When we get out of the car I am always looking for bright light.

Walmart is an excellent source of bright light (indoor bright light). When we go to Walmart, I 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.

This actually accomplishes three things on my list of things to do every day with Dotty: exercise (walking from the lot to the store and back), socialization (get Dotty around other people, hopefully someone stops and talks to her), and a big dose of bright light.

This tip is number five on my list. It is important.

I will be writing about each of the five things we do to accomplish one simple mission -- keep Dotty attached to the world and bring out the "more there" that is inside most persons living with Alzheimer's disease.

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

Related content.

Communicating in Alzheimer's World

How to listen to an Alzheimer's patient

Dementia Patients are People Too

13 Things Every Alzheimer's Caregiver Needs to Know

Knowledge Base - Learn More from Our Topics Pages

How to talk with someone who has dementia

How to Get a Dementia Patient to Cooperate

How to Reduce Caregiver Stress

 16 Things I Would Want, If I Get Dementia

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room

Originally published in the Alzheimer's Reading Room

Learning Transfer

Learning transfer is taking what we learn in one context and apply to another context. It can be taking a kernel of what we learn in school or in a book (knowledge) and applying it to the "real world."

Learning transfer refers to the degree to which an individual applies previously learned knowledge and skills to new situations.

Publisher Alzheimer's Reading Room
Author Bob DeMarco
October, 2010
Title: "Alzheimer's Care, The Importance of Bright Light"