Individuals living with dementia are at an increased risk of falling. Factors relating to sensory input, interpretation of the environment, as well as a decreased ability to adapt to sudden changes in light can cause illusions and misperceptions for people with dementia. For the illuminAID project, the Health Design Lab (HDL) are working with residents, family and staff at Brock Fahrni to develop a working prototype of a lighting system that can be used in residential care homes and address these considerations.
The illuminAID project builds on previous work done with residents, family and staff at Brock Fahrni to improve the physical environment. In September of 2015, the Providence Health Care Research and Design (R&D) team approached the HDL to design short-term and long-term physical and environmental improvements to their residential care homes in order to create a more home-like environment as part of the Prototype & Testing Phase of Residential Care for Me.
Based on information collected during the Insights Gathering Phase of the Residential Care for Me project, one of the key improvement areas identified was reducing the risk of falling when the residents use the washrooms at night. Currently, falls prevention education is focused on training and increasing the awareness of residents, families and staff on potential falling hazards, rather than on environmental factors such as lighting. The Residential Care for Me team, in partnership with the Health Design Lab students, wanted to explore whether falls could be reduced by changing the environmental lighting.
Last year, Brock Fahrni was selected as the home to test some of the lighting proof of concept prototypes. The simple prototypes addressed lighting needs at night, when residents are at highest risk of falls. At night, there is limited lighting from individual head boards and in a four bed room, other sleeping residents are disturbed when overhead lights are turned on or the washroom light is kept on all night. Although the proof-of-concept prototypes were positively received by residents and staff, they were not fully tested nor developed into working prototypes.
Thanks to the CC-ABHI Spark funding, a team from the Health Design Lab are working with PHC staff to develop a working prototype of the new modular lighting system, which will be installed at Brock Fahrni for testing. The goal is to create a lighting system that considers the needs of people with dementia that could be used in any residential care home.
Funding enabling CC-ABHI to administer the Spark Program is provided by the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science, and by the Government of Canada through the Public Health Agency of Canada, and by the Baycrest Foundation. CC-ABHI’s 2017 Spark Program awarded a total of $1.4 million to fund 31 small-scale innovation activities by point-of-care or service delivery staff that advance brain health and aging science, knowledge and practices for the benefit of the public, in particular, older adults.