People who receive care in long-term care facilities and nursing homes can be vulnerable to a host of health problems, from infection to falls. Care providers can and should mitigate these risks, but sometimes, their efforts to keep residents safe ultimately create a new concern.
For instance, because seniors and people with compromised immune systems are at an especially high risk of death stemming from COVID-19, many facilities have isolated their patients. This separation may stop them from transmitting the virus, but it could be creating serious conditions that can be caused by loneliness.
Conditions linked to social isolation and loneliness
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that people who feel lonely and socially isolated can be at a higher risk of premature death and developing the following conditions:
- Heart disease
Considering the health-related challenges that elderly care patients already face, these risks can be especially severe.
If someone you love is in a nursing home or receiving long-term care, there are ways you can help to combat the risks of being alone, even if they are isolated due to COVID-19.
First, talk to their care providers and make sure they have staff checking in on your loved one every day. Providers should be talking to them, assessing their mental and physical condition and spending time with them. These face-to-face interactions can be especially critical when they are the only ones your loved one can have.
Encourage your loved one to participate in any groups or events offered at their facility, even if they say they don’t want to engage. You might attend something with them, if possible, to make them feel more comfortable.
You can also utilize technology. Set up a smart device so you can video chat with them. This can allow your loved one to see you, their grandkids, and things that are going on outside their facility.
Losing social connections can be an unfortunate consequence of being in a long-term care facility. As such, friends and family members should be especially mindful of what they can do to stay connected when someone they love is at risk of loneliness.