When it comes to a loved one’s well-being, social interactions are as vital as medical care for maintaining good health. Social isolation, ongoing research shows, is an underappreciated public health risk that isn’t always addressed adequately in nursing homes. These revelations present a new image of health care for the elderly, with the potential for elder neglect to extend beyond physical deprivation to include a resident’s emotional state.
Understanding the risk factors
The very last thing you want for a loved one is to have their admission to an assisted living facility cause an even faster decline due to social isolation and loneliness. Though the causes are not entirely known, research from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) have shown that isolation increases a person’s risk for developing serious medical conditions, including dementia. The NASEM study reports that older adults living in isolation display a staggering 50% greater likelihood for signs of dementia. Here are some other risks associated with prolonged isolation:
- The risk factors for a sudden death increase for illnesses coupled with loneliness. This degree of impact could rival such health factors as physical inactivity, smoking and obesity.
- Social isolation is associated with a 29% increase in the risk of heart disease and a 32% risk of a stroke.
- For patients suffering from heart failure, loneliness can increase the risk of death by 4x.
Visitation ban lifted in Florida by Governor order
As reported in ABC News, a recent ban on nursing home visitations was lifted by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis under certain limitations. The order allows for two family members to visit at a time while complying with ongoing safety guidelines. The order continues to prohibit children under 18 from visiting. This scenario could provide much needed emotional support for seniors in isolation.
Treating loneliness with interaction
Loneliness is marked by a heightened awareness of feelings of isolation despite the amount of social contact. This distinction means that the quality of a person’s social interactions may be just as important as the mere presence of social interactions. The substantial risks associated with isolation mean that nursing homes that don’t address resident loneliness may be neglecting a vital source of care. Make sure you’re loved one is protected. Learn how loneliness could accelerate their decline.