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Adding Light Eases Behavioral Problems of Dementia
Date:6/10/2008

Study found it fixed circadian rhythms, helped with depression, agitation in elderly

TUESDAY, June 10 (HealthDay News) -- Relatively simple adjustments in lighting may ease some of the behavioral problems associated with dementia, new research suggests.

Use of melatonin, a hormone which seems to play a role in the sleep-wake cycle, also helped patients sleep better at night.

Both strategies could greatly improve quality of life for both patients and caregivers, said the authors of a study in the June 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Elderly residents of group-care facilities should preferably be housed in a brighter environment," said study senior author Eus J. W. Van Someren, of the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam. "This has a strong impact on their quality of life. The favorable effects are not limited to cognition, but also include strong effects on mood and functional limitations in activities of daily living."

The benefits may even surpass those of cholinesterase inhibitors such as Aricept, which are commonly prescribed to limit cognitive decline in Alzheimer's patients, the authors stated.

Not only do individuals with dementia experience memory and other problems with cognition, they often end up with mood, behavior, sleep and functional disturbances.

A recent study found that anti-psychotic medications often prescribed for behavioral problems such as aggression and agitation can increase the risk of hospitalization and even death. Unfortunately, alternatives to these drugs are limited.

But there has been some evidence that disturbances in circadian rhythms and sleep-wake cycles might be at play in patients with dementia, and that interventions aimed at these processes might provide relief.

"In advanced Alzheimer's, the circadian rhythm becomes asynchronous," explained Dr. Christopher C. Colenda, the Jea
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