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A dementia care setting needs special attention paying to the lighting to address two particular factors; the ageing eye and diminished perception. There are many design features we can include in a care home to help people with dementia engage better with their environment, but their effectiveness will be diminished if the lighting isn't of a sufficient level and appropriate type.

"Providing effective lighting will increase residents confidence, increase activity levels, support the ability to perform tasks independently and help them feel generally more comfortable in their surroundings."

Natural light is the best form of lighting course, but there are limitations on how and where this can be brought into the home, and of course, it isn't available 24 hours a day. But LED technology is the next best thing....

A mini history of recent developments in lighting technology

10 years ago it was technically very difficult to achieve appropriate levels of lighting in a care home setting. The main problem was effectively heat! Basically, all light sources, one way or another, relied on heating a solid material (aka a solid body light source) to the point where it would emit light energy. Unavoidably, this meant a lamp or luminaire would also generate heat as an unwanted bi-product. So, the more light you needed, the more heat you had to deal with. So when one of our academic bodies was recommending that halogen uplighters were the best thing to use in care home corridors, they were actually specifying the hottest, most dangerous, expensive and unreliable light source on the market. But then there wasn't a viable alternative.

At this time, LED technology was progressing from digital displays on watches, TV's and the like, and strings of LED's were being put together to provide greater illumination. There was also technology emerging which increased the light output of LED's and distributed it evenly. This was the beginning of a revolution in lighting technology. But initially LED lamps were expensive. A 300mm LED flat panel, square lamp to fit in a suspended ceiling was around £300 to £400 and weighed several kilo's. The equivalent product today delivers around 1600 lm of beautiful, flicker-free light, lasts for years and uses little more energy than a bicycle lamp, is only 8mm thick and costs around £20!  

What makes LED's so different from every other light source?

NO HEAT! Well not very much. LED's emit light as a product of a chemical reaction between a combination of materials and relatively little energy input is required for this to take place. Because you don't need heat to create the light, you don't need much energy, hence why LED's are so energy efficient.

What are the benefits to care homes?

The specific type of LED lamp that we recommend for general use in care homes is a flat panel, because of the way it looks and how it distributes light.

Here are some of the product benefits:

  • Easily achievable increased levels of illumination 
  • High levels of reflected light from wall surfaces due to a 120 degree beam angle
  • Significant reduction in shadows
  • No dazzle or uncomfortable reflections
  • Instant 'strike rate' - ie full output without any discernible warm-up time  
  • Even lighting around objects and up to skirtings
  • Extremely long life and very low failure/replacement rate 
  • Flexibility to add features such as microwave sensors and dimmers
  • Low running costs - typically 60 - 80% savings over alternative light sources
  • Easy to install
  • Reduced fire risk
  • Flexibility to fit them almost anywhere. In a plaster board ceiling, some of our LED lamps can be fitted even where there's a joist, because they're thinner than the ceiling itself!!  

The most important considerations of course, are the benefits this technology affords residents. They can see everything so much better and all the helpful interior design features can be much better appreciated. Colour contrast is more effective and people can see where they're going. Residents are more mobile because their anxieties are reduced when there's good lighting. They're more independent and confident. These benefits contribute to a wealth of additional benefits to their health and well-being. 

Getting the lighting right:

The type of lamp needs to be a flat panel, non-directional type. This keeps shadows to a minimum and reflected light to the maximum. There are a wide variety of shapes and sizes readily available, all of which are super-efficient and can be installed virtually anywhere in the home.  

Two key considerations that determine the choice of lamps are the colour of light required (aka colour temperature) and the amount of illumination needed.

1.Colour temperature:  

This is how the colour of LED output is measured and is referred to as 'K' (Kelvin). LED colour specifications are usually bracketed. So in the case of our products you can select lighting at 3000 - 3500K, 4000 - 4500K and 6000 - 6500K. These are also respectively referred to as Warm white, Daylight white and Cool white - paradoxically the highest colour temperature, but this is because of it's blue colour which we instinctively associate with cold. We recommend warm white as a general rule although Daylight white can be a better colour for working area's such as a kitchen.

Many years ago, when we were trialling LED's in a care home, a resident who had dementia made a completely unsolicited remark that it was a 'happy' light. This was because of its daylight qualities, and it clearly made him feel good.

2.The amount of light: 

The 'brightness' of a lamp is measured in Lumens which you can think of as a measure of 'brightness' and can be precisely measured regardless of the type of light source. All our lamps performance is specified in Lumens.

When applying the measurement  of light to an area, ie Lumens/square metre, 1 Lux = 1 Lumen per square meter  However, there are differing opinions about the amount of light one should try to achieve in a care home setting. So although the measurement is very scientific, the recommendations are less so.Some sources quote the required amount simply as 'double' .....which isn't very helpful, so we've put together a rough guide below which is realistic, achievable, and will meet the needs of a care home environment. Should you have a light metre to hand (which can be bought very cheaply if you want to) and measure the lighting in your home, you'll probably be surprised at how low it is. 

Area Standard recommendation Care home recommended 
Kitchen 200 lux 250 - 300 lux
Bathroom 100 - 150 lux 200 lux minimum
Bedroom 100 lux 200 lux (dimmable)
Corridor 100 lux 200 lux minimum

Because lighting is such an important part of creating a successful care home environment, an appraisal of your lighting is part of our survey of course. Our electrical engineer is experienced and trained for working in a care home environment and he understands the particular needs.

If you'd like to discuss your requirements in more detail email enquiries@tchd.co.uk or call 0113 2685018 / 07974 645296