Lighting Up Life

Marge walked into Augustana Care’s Open Circle Adult Day Services with a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers. “Here, I thought you needed these.” Everyone turned to look at the flowers much like the flowers would turn to look at the sun. They were a perfect choice for the staff after a very busy day of programs and a field trip. I worried about the flowers. I thought to myself, how are they going to survive in our windowless environment? Sunflowers symbolize many things: adoration, loyalty, and longevity are just a few. Marge always does so much to support the staff when she drops off and picks up her husband from Open Circle, she transports a bit of sunlight into our lives. When one of the staff members was refreshing the water in the vase she said, “I bet these flowers will like our new lights.” I hadn’t thought of that!

Open Circle of Apple Valley is in the process of revamping our lighting system. Half the project is complete and it seems just in time, with the shortened days of the fall season approaching. We are installing Circadian Lighting. The reason is that we do not receive certain colors of light that are in normal sunlight. In the winter we arrive in the dark and leave in the dark. Our members have no instinctual clues about the time of day. Research has shown this results in disruptive sleep cycles, poor moods, and the behavior that accompanies such things. My personal experience has been that it leads to decreased motivation, creativity, and general happiness.

Now our lighting system gives us bright morning light as we start our day with current events and art pages and puzzles. It feels like indoor sunlight and is bluish in color. Older eyes need more exposure to this light, suggesting at least two hours a day. It was startling at first, like walking outside on a bright January day. Also, every bit of chipped paint and snagged carpet became oh so evident! This light in the blue color range shuts down Melatonin production, which is the sleep hormone. Midday the lighting changes, moving towards normal indoor light and then adding yellow to signal the beginning of evening, triggering the body’s natural Melatonin production. The new lighting system is computerized and happens automatically and we can override the cycle if we need to.

This morning the sunflowers were still standing tall in their vase and the light was bright. In a couple weeks, our lighting project will be completed. We are already thinking about what pattern of light would serve our members best in our other room. It has also started a deeper discussion about how we need to be the bright light in so many lives and my thoughts immediately turned to Marge. She reminded us through her gift of sunflowers that we need to keep focused on our mission to foster fullness of life, whatever the circumstances.

Augustana Care Open Circle Adult Day Services provides respite care for caregivers while helping people with changing physical, cognitive, and/or social abilities enjoy fulfilling lives. We offer three convenient locations throughout the Minneapolis and St. Paul metro area. Each of our locations offer programs, recreation, personal care, respite and social connections to individuals with memory loss or other emotional and physical needs. Contact one of our centers to learn more about how Augustana Care Open Circle can support care partners to find balance and meaning in a life touched by memory loss or other diagnosis. 

The author, Patty Crawford, is the Center Manager at Augustana Care Open Circle of Apple Valley. She has been a part of Augustana Care for over 40 years. Patty is also a sought-after public speaker on subjects of aging. She weaves her insight and research into meaningful presentations. Patty is a Master of Leadership graduate from Augsburg University.