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OHSU Researchers Study How Light Affects Patients With Dementia

   Portland, Ore.

Note: A reception is planned for Thursday, July 8 at Rosewood Specialty Care for the Memory Impaired, 2550 S.E. Century Blvd., Hillsboro, will include presentations by Susan Hickman, Ph.D., Philip Sloane, M.D., M.P.H. lead investigator and Eunice Noell-Waggoner, of the Center of Design for an Aging Society.

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill want to let the light shine in on 24 residents in a Hillsboro Alzheimer’s care facility. They want to see how high-intensity, low-glare lighting and the natural light from skylights affects the older adults living at Rosewood Specialty Care for the Memory Impaired in Hillsboro.

“We do know from previous research bright lights can affect the brain in favorable ways, and this study is building on that information. Our goal is to access the impact of high-intensity, low-glare lighting on older adults with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s. We’ll be looking at how the lighting affects residents’ quality of life,” said Susan Hickman, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing and co-principal investigator with Karen Talerico, Ph.D., R.N., C.N.S., assistant professor of nursing, both in the OHSU School of Nursing. The study will begin in August and last six months.

Previous research suggests that most people in long-term care settings often do not go outside and are exposed to very little natural light, according to Hickman. It also has been shown that people with dementia experience difficulties with mood, sleep and behaviors. The state-of-the-art lighting and skylights installed at the Rosewood facility will provide the equivalent of the light levels outside on a cloudy day.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, led by Philip D. Sloane, M.D., M.P.H., will be collaborating with OHSU researchers. Sloane has conducted a similar study in North Carolina.

Energy Trust of Oregon Inc., provided incentives of $106,500 and the Oregon Department of Energy provided energy tax credits to support a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH Grant # 5R01AT000212) at Rosewood Specialty Care for the Memory Impaired.

Eunice Noell-Waggoner of the Center of Design for an Aging Society, a Portland nonprofit organization specializing in design for older adults, coordinated the project, which included the installation of four large skylights and high-intensity fluorescent fixtures. Noell-Waggoner, who donated her services for the study, obtained in-kind donations of design and engineering services, equipment and lighting fixtures for the study.

“It’s so amazing to see all the work everyone has put into this project. It’s been a great community-building exercise. The skylights are beautiful and let in a lot of natural light. We are eager to learn exactly how the natural and artificial lighting impacts residents’ mood, sleep patterns and behavior,” Hickman said.

Equipment, design and engineering companies that have made donations to the
project include: Interface Engineering; LRS Architects; Kalwall; DeaMor; GE Lighting; Lithonia Lighting; SPI Lighting; MechoShade Systems; Advance Transformer Co.; Platt Electric; Cascade Lighting; Pacific Coast Air Balancing, Inc.; Johnson Air Products, Inc.; NW Energy Efficiency Alliance, Lighting Design Lab; Better Bricks Daylighting Labs and Seabold Construction Company Inc.



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