Ecumen Awarded LeadingAge Innovation Grant To Test Dementia Care Light Therapy

Ecumen has been awarded a $29,800 LeadingAge Innovations Fund grant to integrate light therapy into memory care units for adults with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD).

An estimated 80 to 100 people with ADRD living in Ecumen memory care units will be part of the pilot program using light therapy as a way of decreasing sleep disturbances and reducing depression and agitation. In its grant proposal, which was chosen from 110 applications, Ecumen cited promising research showing exposure to bright lights and blue lights can increase daytime wakefulness and improve night sleeping among people with ADRD, who can spend 40 percent of their nights awake and a large portion of their days asleep. 

The pilot will be at three sites— Ecumen Parmly LifePointes in Chisago City, Minn., and Ecumen-managed sites Grand Village in Grand Rapids, Minn., and Heritage Living Center in Park Rapids, Minn.  Training and development work on the initiative will begin in January, 2015, and the light therapy is expected to begin by April, 2015. At the three sites, blue lights will be installed in common areas and bright light tablets will be placed in residents’ rooms.  In its grant application, Ecumen said: “Based upon our review of the literature, we believe two to four hours of exposure to bright or blue lights should be effective in improving sleep patterns and reducing agitation.”

The light therapy project will be incorporated into the ongoing Ecumen Awakenings™ initiative, a care program that emphasizes managing dementia without highly sedating drugs.  Residents, their families, doctors and care staff all work together to replace traditional drug therapies with individualized techniques that reduce anxiety and difficult behaviors while improving quality of life.  Behavioral changes already are carefully monitored and documented, and measurement of the effects of the light therapy will be incorporated into the ongoing programs.

LeadingAge, a national association of nonprofit aging services providers, awards Innovations Fund grants to nonprofit providers of aging services for projects that “have a demonstrable impact on residents, clients, families, employees or the broader community, and that have the potential for replication.”

The grant to Ecumen falls in the category of Innovative Dementia Care Programs “that pursue promising strategies for improving the quality of life and quality of care for people with dementia.” The awards are funded from LeadingAge’s Great Minds Gala (held in partnership with Integrace, formerly EMA), as well as the generosity of LeadingAge members and individuals.  Earlier this year, Ecumen received national recognition as winner of the LeadingAge Excellence in Dementia Care Award recognizing extraordinary leadership in the quest to improve lives of those touched by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.