Light treatment proves effective for patients with Alzheimer's disease, reveals study.
Caregivers said patients receiving the treatment seemed more awake and alert, were more verbally competent and showed improved recognition, recollection and motor coordination, reported LuAnn Nowak Etcher, Ph.D., assistant professor of nursing at Wayne State University.
They also said patients seemed to recapture their personalities and were more engaged with their environment. Patients' moods also were described as improved.
Etcher's work is inspired by her interest in a phenomenon known as "sundowning," when Alzheimer's patients sleep during the day, wake up later and may be up all night long.
Part of her doctoral research was to utilize light, a common intervention for circadian disorders, to regulate the rest-activity patterns of women with Alzheimer's.
The study involved 20 women older than age 65 with Alzheimer's dementia from nursing homes in southeast Michigan. Each patient was assigned randomly to an experimental group receiving blue-green light treatments or a control group receiving dim red light.
Although blue-green light recipients comprised the active experimental group, Etcher said she was surprised when some recipients of red light - the placebo group - also were reported as showing improvements, with caregivers saying their patients were calmer and had reduced resistance to care.
The level of effects varied, Etcher said, noting that while the blue-green group recipients were largely reported by caregivers as showing improvement, a few showed little to no effect from the treatments.
"Some of the rest-activity pattern disruptions that we see associated with Alzheimer's dementia may not necessarily be circadian based," Etcher said.
"They may be due to unmet needs, pain or other phenomena, and therefore would not respond to an intervention aimed at regulation of the circadian system," the researchers added.
Calling her study preliminary, Etcher said this new treatment needs to be studied with a larger sample and different demographics.
The study was published recently in the Western Journal of Nursing Research.