Setting the lighting mood
When I moved into my first nursing home room, the lighting was subdued. There was a dome light ceiling fixture and above the bed a horizontal light with two high-intensity bulbs aimed down and two regular incandescent bulbs aimed up. But, it was not sufficient light for me to read in bed. I wondered how the nurses could see to check a resident's skin or to treat a wound.
I asked the staff about the minimal room lighting. They explained that the older residents with mild to moderate dementia became agitated by too bright lights. At the time, I was 47 years old and wanted more light.
When I brought my computer, I brought along a three-way (150-watt) lamp to put on the wall above it. It made the room look cozier and provided more light by the computer, so I could read and see papers on my copy holder much better.
I asked the staff to please not turn on the ceiling light during the night. During my more than 14 years there I left the bathroom light on at night so the staff could see when they came in. They always walked to my bed and turned on the horizontal light above it, which gave them plenty of light and saved my eyes from being assaulted by the bright overhead light.
A retired physician moved in several years later to spend his remaining days. He requested a brighter light and soon after a three-tube fluorescent fixture was installed. Although I never knew whether he paid for the fixture, he was pleased with better lighting. Not long after, the same fluorescent fixture was installed on the ceilings of all the other resident rooms.
When I moved to this facility, the lighting was much brighter. The semiprivate rooms have a three-tube fluorescent fixture over each bed. I left those big lights on for years. But two years ago, I stopped using overhead lights. It just put too much glare on my screen, and I felt it caused more eye strain.
The overhead adjustable light above my bed broke more than a year ago. The maintenance man replaced it with a fixture that turns on and off both lights simultaneously. I seldom use it because it is too much light. I ordered a light fixture like I used to have—a three pole, three-way chain switch—online but was sent the wrong item. I plan to keep searching for one since it allows me to choose the light setting I want.
When I came here, I left the upper light above my bed on all night so the staff could see coming into the room. I'd rather the ceiling light not be turned on in the middle of the night, but most of the aides still turn it on to assure them enough light. They are younger, wide awake and do not realize that turning on two large fluorescent fixtures in the night is quite an assault to my eyes. I also realize that my aging eyes do not adjust to room light as quickly as they once did.
In my more than 21 years living in nursing homes, I have had low lighting and quite bright lighting. I prefer it to be more moderate. My 68-year-old eyes react to light more and some lighting seems particularly intense. I would hope in the future nursing home owners and managers would strive to find cool light fluorescent tubes and incandescent bulbs, so aging eyes would not be frustrated by harsh lighting.
Kathleen Mears is a long-time blogger who has been a nursing home resident for 21 years. She is an incomplete quadriplegic and uses a power wheelchair to get around. Her computer is her “window on the world.” This blog shares her thoughts and view of life as a nursing home resident as well as ideas of how it might be improved in the future.