Battling Isolation in Nursing Homes

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw the most devastating increase in isolation and loneliness in nursing homes ever. Restricted by altered, or non-existent, visiting policies, residents were often left alone in their rooms, separated from family, and without social activities which were canceled. This isolation epidemic was eventually contested with the Essential Caregivers Act, but we are still battling the isolation in nursing homes.

PC: Rod Long via Unsplash

Isolation in Nursing Homes

A National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) and the National Consumer Voice collaborative survey found that the COVID-prompted isolation is still an issue in nursing homes.

One study found that more than half of all residents in nursing homes suffer from loneliness.

Simard and Volicer, National Library of Medicine.

Loneliness can have devastating effects on anyone’s mental and physical health. And while some isolation may be chosen, involuntary isolation, specifically in nursing homes, can have even more of an impact, such as “increased risk of depression, alcoholism, suicidal thoughts, aggressive behaviors, anxiety, and impulsivity.” (Simard and Volicer

Additionally, increased loneliness and isolation in older adults can increase the risk of dementia by 50%. Some residents during the COVID-19 pandemic “lost their ability to speak because no one was communicating with them”, while others’ physical health deteriorated.

Across the board, depression, despair, and cognitive decline were all reported as a direct result of the pandemic and its isolation rules. 

More than ever, it is important to ensure that elderly Americans do not experience forced isolation.

How to Battle Isolation

“Spend time with us. Listen to us.”

– Residents

In the aftermath of the pandemic, with visiting rules reinstated, there are plenty of ways to ensure that nursing home residents receive the attention and care they need to live out their lives healthy and happy. 

Some of the suggestions that come from the Consumer Voice and NCEA are very simple and as follows.

  • Visit your loved one. A few minutes can make all the difference. Visit, chat, ensure they make it to their favorite activities, and help them participate in hobbies. Additionally, visiting also ensures their care is up to the proper standard and allows you to be their advocate when needed.
  • Become a member of the nursing home’s family council! This is a great way to advocate for your loved one, as well as the rest of the facility’s residents. Family councils are invaluable, but often underutilized, tools in the nursing home industry.
  • Utilize technology. Help the slightly more tech-challenged residents so they can branch out of the facility to find activities and groups for socialization and hobby exploration. Religious services, book clubs, crafts, exercise, and so much more is available through internet resources. If there are limited in-person activities at the nursing home, help your loved one find what they love online.
  • As nursing administration, you can organize groups and encourage a volunteer network. Administration is just as responsible for the socialization of their residents as loved ones are. Through a volunteer program, residents can receive more one-on-one time, have more conversations, and have a better chance of getting to the activities they want to attend. Volunteers can also help lighten the load for nursing home staff—it’s a win-win!

These are just a few of the efforts that can lessen nursing home loneliness and isolation. A little effort goes a long way and everyone, as a community, can work together to battle this common downside to nursing home life. Read the full list of suggestions here.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, call Gharibian Law (877-460-1187) today for a FREE consultation and the best legal representation.