Advancing the effective use of light for society and the environment.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Advanced Lighting Assists Patients and Staff in Long-term Care Facility
Patient bedroom with LED lighting under the bed.
Patient bedrooms were outfitted with amber LED lighting under the bed frames.

A new study from the LRC is showing how innovative lighting designs and advanced technologies, including LEDs, photosensors and occupancy sensors, can help seniors in long-term care environments maintain independence and be more comfortable.

In a pilot demonstration study at Schuyler Ridge Residential Health Care, a 120-resident skilled nursing facility in Clifton Park, N.Y., LRC researchers installed automated LEDs to determine whether energy-efficient lighting solutions could improve the comfort and care of seniors, assist the nursing staff in their nightly rounds, and help residents navigate facility hallways.

“Safety and comfort are crucial influences on the quality of a long-term care facility,” says LRC light and health researcher Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D. “Many of the lighting technologies available today can be designed into a system that works with an older person’s visual system and physical limitations, helping them to perform many tasks with more independence and ease.”

Bathroom mirror with LED lighting
Bathroom nightlighting was provided under the mirror and along handrails.

LRC suggests automated lighting design to assist residents and nurses

Patients at Schuyler Ridge often find it difficult to get out of bed at night because the lighting controls are out of reach. This situation can lead to falls and injury, says Dr. Figueiro. Additionally, nurses check patients several times during the night by repeatedly turning on the overhead lighting, which is uncomfortably bright and disturbs patients’ sleep. Outside the bedrooms, the 74,000-square-foot facility with look-alike common areas and hallways can be difficult to navigate, especially for those patients with some degree of dementia.

The LRC team determined that an automated, non-disturbing lighting scheme could be designed to help patients get in and out of bed at night, as well as give nurses enough light for their rounds. Hallways could be distinguished through the use of colored lighting, which theoretically would serve as a navigational guide for residents and visitors.

Custom LED fixtures were installed in four patient bedrooms and bathrooms and in one hallway. LRC researchers mounted amber-colored LEDs under each bed frame, around the bathroom door, and under the bathroom mirror and handrail. Jean Paul Freyssinier, LRC lighting design specialist, says the bed frame lighting was selected specifically to illuminate the floor, allowing patients and nurses a clear passage during the night. “By putting the light on the floor where it is needed, we can use fewer lumens and less power than with overhead lighting,” he says. The doorframe lighting system created enough indirect light to adequately illuminate the room without causing glare.

An occupancy sensor slowly turned the lights on when a patient got out of bed or a nurse walked into the room. Hallway lights were mounted to the backside of a handrail and remained switched on.

Results show more satisfaction with new lighting installation

Surveys conducted with patients and staff before the LED lighting installation showed that most patients were awakened at night by nurses turning on the overhead lighting, which was considered too bright and glaring. After the installation, the patients reported no problems with sleep disturbance or discomfort with the LED lighting. Nurses confirmed that there was enough light in the bedrooms to perform their rounds and said the automated lighting was convenient and useful; however, nurses commented that more light in bathrooms was needed. In the hallways, nurses and patients reported that the lighted handrail enhanced the look of the hallway and could serve as a way-finding guide.

Figueiro said she was surprised and pleased by the positive responses, noting that several patients and nurses approached her team at follow-up visits to say how much they appreciated the new lighting. “The responses we received show that there is an opportunity and need for innovative lighting designed specifically for seniors and staff in long-term care facilities,” she said.

The study, conducted with help from former LRC graduate student Kelly Lisai, was sponsored by the Alliance for Solid-State Illumination Systems and Technologies (ASSIST) and OSRAM SYLVANIA / Osram Opto Semiconductors. After completing the study, the LRC made arrangements with OSRAM SYLVANIA / Osram Opto Semiconductors to donate the automated LED systems used in the experiments to Schuyler Ridge.

Follow-up work

Figueiro notes that the next steps will be education—both for senior-care workers and manufacturers—and working with manufacturers to develop LED lighting products that can be purchased off-the-shelf. “Right now, elderly-care facilities cannot easily purchase and install LED systems that will allow them to replicate the study’s designs,” says Figueiro. Cost is also an issue, she says; however, with greater availability and demand for such systems, prices are likely to come to down in the future.

Additionally, the LRC may take on future studies of this application, including an investigation of lighting as a perceptual cue. Figueiro says the research team is now looking into potential experiments to test and verify whether horizontal and vertical light cues can reduce falling risks for elderly patients.

About the LRC

The Lighting Research Center (LRC) is part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is the leading university-based research center devoted to lighting. Founded in 1988, the Lighting Research Center has built an international reputation as a trusted and reliable source for objective information about lighting technologies, applications, and products. Its mission is to advance the effective use of light and create a positive legacy of change for society and the environment.



2005 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 12180 USA.

Rennselear Polytechnic Institute