Feature, Healthcare

Tuneable light is helping to alleviate dementia symptoms at this UK hospital

Lighting on the dementia ward at Hull Royal Infirmary can be tuned from warm to cool to match daylight

Dementia is a growing problem for the UK’s health service as the population gets older. It’s a condition that affects different people in different ways, but all of them need good professional care, respect and kindness.

New technology from the lighting industry is beginning to respond to the challenge of dementia care. Hull Royal Infirmary in the north of England has conducted a pilot of a new system developed by Apollo Lighting specifically with dementia in mind. Doctors at the hospital say patients with extreme anxiety and confusion became noticeably calmer when the new CareLux system was installed in their rooms.

The colour temperature of the lighting changes from a warm 3000 to a cool 6500K, mimicking the colour temperature and relative brightness of daylight and stimulating the patient’s circadian rhythm, which affects alertness, blood pressure, body temperature and hormone levels. Dementia patients are particularly prone to having their sleep-wake cycles fall out of sync with other rhythms such as their metabolic, hormonal, central nervous system or neurotransmitter rhythms. CareLux helps the body maintain the 24-hour sleep-wake cycle by simulating daylight.

Patients with the dynamic lighting system installed in their rooms were noticeably calmer, said doctors

The installation includes tuneable white dynamic general lighting with daylight simulation, RGB colour walls, LED night light and emergency LED with reduced output indicator LED. There are also user-friendly controls with standard switches.

The general lighting gives a uniform light to the rooms and provides different colour temperatures. The long-life of LED products should mean that minimal maintenance will be needed, and the system saves energy compared to a similar system using traditional technology.

The luminaires have been developed with the help of hospital engineers, dementia consultants and installers to ensure the units provide the correct illumination, where and when it is needed. They have also been designed for ease of installation.

Healthy sleep
Not only is the colour temperature of the light sources adjustable from 3000-6500K, they can also be dimmed from 100 per cent to one per cent.

A colour-changing wall-wash system is available as part of CareLux. It has been found that colour-changing light can significantly improve a dementia patient’s state of mind.

Night-time light
Apollo’s Lunar LED night light achieves the levels recommended by Cibse of 10 lx maximum, 5 lx average and less than 0.5 lx on the bedhead. It has a warm LED source and a smooth beam using a darklight reflector to prevent patients seeing the light source. It helps prevent incidences of phantasmagoria or hallucination.

“Dementia patients are particularly prone to having their sleep-wake cycles fall out of sync with other rhythms”

Apollo’s research identified that the green indicator LEDs used in emergency lighting could irritate dementia patients, so it developed an emergency LED with a reduced output indicator LED, still visible for maintenance but with less than a tenth of the usual intensity, reducing irritation to patients.

Basic controls
For patients, control is kept as simple as possible, with a light switch to turn lights on and off. For a larger installation, where control by a nurse is required, a touchscreen can be mounted at the nurse base.

The screen has functions for each ward, with the ability to turn night lights on and off and to fade main lighting up and down. This means nurses are not faced with a large bank of confusing buttons and switches.

All this technology comes together to ensure the best outcome in terms of physical and psychological wellbeing.