Lighting design ideas and staying home safely with dementia. Useful help and advice on lighting fixtures and unwanted shadows for people diagnosed with dementia. Information on colour.

Most of the information we receive about our environment  is through our eyes. Artificial lighting creates a series of reflections on surfaces, this makes the correct lighting crucial to a domestic environment.

The best light, of course, is natural day light, as it gives the best rendition of colours and is far brighter than artificial lighting. Trying to reproduce natural lighting through artificial lighting is difficult and expensive and it is more effective to utilise roof lights, sun pipes and windows.

Lighting design ideas and staying home safely with dementia

Using natural light

Lighting design ideas staying at home safely with dementiaDaylight can be brought into an interior through windows, skylights, doors, light pipes and glass blocks. Sheer or lace curtains permit the transmission of light while also providing some privacy and allowing the person indoors to look out of the window without being observed from outside. Position seating areas close to open windows so that people can benefit from natural light easily. Also, being able to see outside into the garden may encourage people to go outdoors.


Artificial lighting has an effect on the colour and appearance of objects. It can spread light in all directions or reflect off surfaces. These effects can make it difficult for someone with dementia to interpret their surroundings.

Artificial lighting indoors should be even to lessen any dark shadows.There should be a diversity of lighting types so that the light levels can be adjusted during the day and during night time to provide bright even lighting throughout the home.

Increasing light levels for older people is vital, this especially includes those people with dementia. Wherever possible, lighting design should include the use of flexible lighting heights and the use of appropriate surface finishes in order to reduce reflected glare.


Spotlights can be used as task lighting along with other general lighting to supplement the general light levels.

Minimise glare  by choosing appropriate types of light fixtures (i.e. light itself and its shading), number and position of light fixtures.

Sudden change in light level should be avoided – shadows can be caused by non uniform lighting. Instead ensure transition lighting between well-lit areas and less well-lit areas.

Use surfaces materials that reduce reflected glare, avoid using high gloss finishes or floor surfaces with high  reflection. A person with dementia may perceive this as a wet floor and avoid walking on it.

Up-lights can be used to ensure diffuse lighting in a space. Light directed towards a matt painted ceiling will bounce off it and fill the room with diffused and even lighting.

Shadows may be perceived to be objects (or objects may be perceived as shadows). Daylight at sunrise or sunset can cause long shadows indoors which some people with dementia may find disturbing. Shadows of moving trees and branches outside a window can also be distressing. Consider using ‘black–out blinds’ to effectively block out light when necessary.

Invasive lighting

In some cases, lighting can be invasive and unwanted. For example, excessively bright light from outside or neighbouring buildings that comes in through the windows at night. Black out blinds can be used to block out such lights at night.

Flexible lighting can be used to accommodate any specific individual needs and to minimise power use.

Sitting area lighting can be controlled by a conventional switch and others by passive infrared sensors wLighting design ideas staying at home safely with dementiahich turn lights on when the space is occupied. The use of daylight switching can turn off lights when there is sufficient daylight in a space.

Timers can be set to turn lighting on/off at a specified time, for example to make sure that spaces not used overnight do not remain illuminated.

The use of multiple light circuits and light fixtures containing two lamps or more which can be switched on/off independently.

Windows and patio doors with the curtains drawn wide open allow natural light indoors and can reduce the need for total dependence on artificial light during the day.


Types of light fittings

Light fittings come in an abundance of styles and designs and they should be carefully selected to suit the purpose or function of a room. The correct lighting will help to make a house safe for the individual who has dementia.

Chandelier lights

Although traditional in design they can  produce some dramatic lighting effects in a room, especially if crystal or cut glass is used in the design.

Chandeliers with shaded covers or a  style which cover the bulb are a better option.

Pendant shades

Avoiding unusual shadows is important, the bulb needs to be covered and should avoid light which will reflect from any type of metal.

Desk lamps

Desk lamps for reading and activities are useful. Be aware of heat risks from the bulb and ensure the lamp has a very clear on/off button.

Table lamps

Table lamps can give perspective to a room, such as the  living area or a bedroom. Low temperature light bulbs should be used.

Bedside lamps, lamps for tables and floor lamps

Touch lamps can sometimes add confusion as to how a lamp turns on and off, easily identifiable switches are better. The lamps should always reflect the persons taste and if possible be chosen by them. Ideally the base needs to be quite heavy and not shiny, so as to avoid reflecting light. Shades should be plain in design to avoid any confusion and care needs to be taken to prevent lamps from creating strange shadows.

Floor lamps must be stable and not too subtle so as not to be seen or mistaken for something else. Cable management needs to be considered so as not to create a trip hazard.

Traditional designs for floor lamps can add a homely feel and give a living space some identity.

Light switches and electricity sockets

Light switches should, ideally, be  seen easily,  perhaps being a different colour from the wall and switch. Stickers can be used to identify light switches.

Electricity switches should be mounted 1 metre from the floor, again with a  colour contrast. Ideally the rocker switches on the outside and not the middle.