Light therapy for seniors in long term care

J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2012 Feb;13(2):100-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jamda.2011.05.006. Epub 2011 Jun 16.


Objectives: To investigate the effects of light therapy on cognition, depression, sleep, and circadian rhythms in a general, nonselected population of seniors living in a long term care facility.

Design: A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.

Setting: The experiment took place at a long term care facility in Pennsylvania.

Participants: Study participants (15 treatment, 13 placebo) were residents receiving either personal care or skilled nursing care.

Intervention: Treatment consisted of approximately 400 lux of blue light administered for 30 minutes per day, Monday through Friday, for 4 weeks. The placebo was approximately 75 lux of red light generated from the same device.

Measurements: Behavioral assessments were made using the MicroCog Assessment of Cognitive Functioning, Geriatric Depression Scale, and Profile of Mood States. Daytime sleepiness was evaluated using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale.

Results: Three of the 4 composite scores from the MicroCog as well as the mean Tension/Anxiety score from the Profile of Mood States showed a significant treatment versus placebo effect.

Conclusion: Blue light treatment led to significant cognitive improvements compared with placebo red light and may be a promising environmental intervention to reduce cognitive symptoms in elderly, long-term care residents.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cognition Disorders / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Homes for the Aged
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Care
  • Male
  • Nursing Homes
  • Phototherapy / methods*
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / diagnosis
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome