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Lighting Changes May Have Benefited Health in a Senior Care Facility

tunable-control-horzDetails of a pilot installation of tunable-white LED systems at a senior-care facility have just been released. The project was undertaken at a care home in California to establish goals that included learning more about how tunable-white lighting affects the sleep patterns, night-time safety, and other behaviours of the residents; and better equipping the staff to provide excellent care by improving the quality of lighting (e.g., reduced glare, better controllability) relative to the incumbent system.

Pre- and post-installation field measurements of illuminance and colour quality were recorded and the energy consumption of the new system was compared with that of the old one. The lighting solutions followed published guidelines which are based on the role light is believed to play in suppressing the release of melatonin, a hormone that helps control the sleep-wake cycle. Disturbed sleep patterns are common among the residents of senior-care facilities.

Several different tunable-white LED systems were chosen and installed in one corridor, two resident rooms, the nurse station, the common family room, and the administrator’s office. The incumbent fluorescent systems were evaluated in August 2015 and the trial LED systems in December 2015.

The illuminance levels in the resident rooms and bathrooms did not meet current industry standards with the incumbent fluorescent system, but exceeded recommendations for the over-65 age group with the LED system. Colour consistency for the tunable LED luminaires used in the corridors, nurse station, family room, and administrator’s office was very good between luminaires and over the dimming range. Energy savings for the tunable LED luminaires in the corridors was 45% relative to the fluorescent system, based on the reduced power, but those savings increased to 68% when the automatic dimming was considered.

Care staff documented a number of important health-related benefits that may have been attributable, at least in part, to the lighting changes. For example, among the three residents studied, agitated behaviours such as yelling and crying decreased following the LED trial installation. In addition, psychotropic and sleep medications were significantly reduced for one of the residents. And in the corridor studied, the number of patient falls recorded decreased after the LED installation.

Among the lessons learned from the project were that contractors aren’t yet familiar with tunable systems and controls, that finding the proper balance of automatic versus manual tuning of the lighting spectrum and intensity is challenging, and that educating residents and staff is essential when implementing new lighting solutions in care homes.

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