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Study: Advanced lighting system installed in Wisconsin nursing homes reduces risk of seniors falling by 43%

The Oak Ridge Care Center was one of four nursing homes in Wisconsin selected to partake in the first-of-its-kind study.
Posted at 6:37 PM, Sep 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-16 22:53:57-04

UNION GROVE, Wis. — A recent study shows proper lighting can keep seniors safe. It was an idea Rodney Heller, the executive director of the Midwest Lighting Institute, came up with after meeting researchers who worked with the international space station.

"They have day and night every 90 minutes on the international space station. You can't sleep and wake every 90 minutes, so they had to turn it into a 24-hour day, and they did it with light," said Heller.

He conducted a controlled study to see if changing light colors would help reduce the number of falls in nursing home residents who normally spend most of their days inside.

"When the lighting color is the same, their body clocks never get set. So they're going to be sleeping more during the day, they'll be awake more in the evening," said Heller.

Over the span of two years, experts documented how the change in light colors, which is similar to colors you'd see outside over a 24-hour period, affected residents.

"We start out first thing in the morning with a blue type color and then at about 10 or 10:30, we start ramping up the intensity, we make it brighter. Then at about 2-2:30, we start bringing it back down because that's what the normal day does. Then when the residents go to dinner we change the color from a bluish to a yellowish kind of color and then we start bringing that down from like 6 until 10 at night.

The Oak Ridge Care Center was one of four nursing homes in Wisconsin selected to partake in the first-of-its-kind study. Out of 126,000 patient days monitored, results from the LED change showed a 43% drop in falls.

"When the blue light enters the pupil, it shuts off melatonin, turns on cortisol production and it makes you alert, energetic, and ready to go," said Heller. "That's really how you reduce falls is by making them more alert and energetic."

To have an additional tool like this is just really beneficial," said Steve Kuranz, the executive director of the Oak Ridge Care Center. "We want to keep our residents safe and we want to make sure that falls are reduced to the greatest extent possible."

The hope is more 24-hour facilities will implement this LED change to create healthier environments across the country.

To learn more about the Midwest Lighting Institute and its studies, visit their website..

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