By Joanne Kaldy

The potential of circadian lighting to improve sleep and reduce wandering—among other benefits—has tremendous utility in senior care communities. However, it’s not just the lighting but the planning, goal-setting, person-centered approach, and partnership behind it that creates the brightest results.

Always seeking ways to enhance the care, safety, and quality of life for residents, Affinity Living Group (ALG) partnered with Lumenant (a company specializing in lighting, energy, and technology solutions for senior living communities and a Senior Living Foresight partner), to install circadian lighting systems as part of renovation and remodeling projects at its assisted living communities in North and South Carolina. Kevin O’Neil, ALG Chief Medical Officer, says that the partnership exceeded expectations, partly because Lumenant doesn’t just know lighting; the company knows senior living, its residents, and its care teams.

Speaking of ALG President and CEO Charles E. Trefzger, Jr., O’Neil says, “Charlie is an avid learner, and he has a keen interest in innovations to improve quality of life for our residents, including those with dementia.” Circadian lighting, he adds, got Trefzger’s attention, and he saw its tremendous potential. Preliminary data have already shown that circadian lighting produces better sleep patterns and less nocturnal awakenings, a decrease in sundowning and agitation in people with dementia, less wandering, and happier residents and family members.

O’Neil adds, “One bonus was the positive impact this had on staff. They reported having more energy and less fatigue. At the same time, family members were pleased to see that residents were more alert and engaged.”

Menu for Perfect Partnerships

Communication and a shared vision are key to effective partnerships, and ALG and Lumenant ensured these from day one. “One of the first steps is engaging leaders, and it is key to have partners who support your goals and objectives. The team at Lumenant understands the nature of senior living and the cognitive and other issues related to our residents. They understand what matters to our residents and to our care teams,” says O’Neil. He further notes, “Having this communication is critical to buy-in and success. It also helped us make changes and adjustments as necessary and promptly address questions and issues we had.”

Flexibility is another characteristic of successful partnerships. O’Neil says, “Lumenant was open to the possibilities of the project, and it got a little bigger than we initially anticipated because we added movement sensors and other components to ensure maximum comfort for residents.” He adds, “At first, we talked about focusing on lighting in common rooms, then we realized there was a value of putting circadian lighting in the rooms of specific residents with wandering behaviors.” Lumenant was flexible, he says, and helped make the most of the community’s efforts without unnecessary additional expenses. They also arranged the installations with minimum disruption for residents and staff alike.

Training and More

Effective partnerships aren’t one-and-done, and this was true of the relationship between ALG and Lumenant. For example, training, support, and guidance over time was never in question. Julie Walker, Director of Dementia Care at ALG, says, “Training was one of the most important factors for us. Lumenant was there the whole time. They worked with staff on different shifts and taught them how to use the lighting and what would happen if they overrode the system.”

She explains that staff was appreciative of the personalized attention, especially as they learned more and started to see the benefits of the circadian lighting. “If we didn’t give them the necessary education, they may have thought the light should be brighter or dimmer at specific times and overridden the system, minimizing or even canceling out its effectiveness,” Walker observes.

Culture Is King

To have a successful relationship with a senior living community, it is essential to understand its culture. The Lumenant team understood ALG’s culture and worked to make sure that their efforts aligned with that every step of the way. For instance, the company took the time to understand who the residents are. In this case, many are from an agriculture and farming community, so they tend to wake up and go to bed earlier. Lumenant designed an algorithm based on the schedule of the residents in the building. “They didn’t just come in and say, ‘This is what we’re going to do.’ They took the time to get to know us and the personalities of our residents,” says Walker. “I don’t think it would have as successful otherwise. It’s all about being person-centered in everything we do.”

To learn more about Lumenant, please visit their website.