A lightbulb moment!
Last summer, as I sat onboard a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner at 2am waiting to start a massively delayed flight I become somewhat frustrated with the rapidly changing illuminations in the aircraft. The crew, rather than demonstrating the usual emergency procedures, talked proudly of the fact that the aircraft has a lighting array with 1.8 million lighting combinations. Later, in the very wee small hours of the flight I asked a member of cabin crew what was the point of having 1.8 million lighting combinations? She told me they help create a more soothing and stress-free environment for passengers. She said it was designed to help people who may be a little bit disorientated on long flights orientate themselves and become calmer.
Now, leap forward a few months and I am sitting in the lounge of a care home talking to the owner and staff about the challenges they face. The care home is beautifully decorated with new furniture, new fittings and refurbished to a very high standard. It looks great, but it is very quiet, there are few residents. The owner tells me it is a constant challenge. It’s the biggest issue, recruiting and retaining staff to support residents with dementia. The worst of it are the significant variations in levels of activity. There are peak times, for example, when more staff are needed, but these are not easy to predict so it’s difficult to know when to roster extra people on. Creating the right environment can also be a challenge, different background music can help, but creating a relaxing environment which soothes anxious residents is a real challenge
As I looked around the room mulling over these challenges, I noticed the rather harsh lights and was reminded of the 1.8 million lighting combinations on the Boeing787. If lighting can be used to create a more pleasant calming and relaxing experience during flight could it play a part in care homes? For example, could it help people with dementia cope with the passage of the time of day or even the changing seasons by using pre-programmed lighting effects?
Technology in social care is part significant part of the future, where will the next new idea will come from? The use of lighting effects may have a small part to play in enhancing the lives of residents, but if it allows staff more time to invest in other elements of care it’s role could be significant. I think it’s certainly worth investigating.