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Light exposure may benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease

On Behalf of | Jun 3, 2020 | Guardianships & Conservatorships |

At our law firm, we advise and support clients who care for, support or protect people who suffer from the challenges Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. These clients may be family members, guardians, conservators, trustees, representative payees and others. In their roles, they seek a variety of ways to help their loved ones or protected persons to improve the quality of their lives and lessen distressing symptoms.

We have recently posted in this space about the impact of physical activity and socialization in slowing down cognitive decline in older adults. Today, we share information about the benefit of light for people with Alzheimer’s.

According to Disability Scoop, Mariana Figueiro of the Lighting Research Center and professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is the principal researcher in a light study involving people with Alzheimer’s disease in New York and Vermont care facilities. These patients were exposed to simulated sunshine “for much of the day,” which stimulated normal circadian rhythms that in turn help to normalize sleep cycles.

Comparing other people in the facilities to those with light exposure, the study suggested:

  • Light improves the quality of sleep.
  • Light diminishes agitation.
  • Light lessens depression.

These findings may mean that the use of light boxes like those used for people with seasonal-affective disorder (SAD), as well as providing access to natural light through windows and spending time outside, could contribute to a lessening of symptoms that otherwise could require placement outside the home. Dr. Figueiro pointed out that caregivers are sometimes unable to provide proper care at home when people with Alzheimer’s only sleep a couple of hours at night, require constant monitoring when not asleep and display agitation and outbursts.

Another benefit of light therapy may be to lessen symptoms that otherwise might require antipsychotic medications that sometimes have bad side effects.