Nursing home isolation

When our elderly loved ones reach a certain age, it is not uncommon for them to enter a nursing home or other type of long-term care facility. Often the decision to make such a transition comes from the need to receive more constant care, or simply because such facilities often provide a sense of community that may be lacking in an older adult’s life. However, while some care facilities do a wonderful job fostering a healthy social environment, others fail in this respect and create an atmosphere that contributes to resident withdrawal, avoidance of social interaction and even forced isolation. 

When a long term care facility deprives residents of healthy social interaction, this can take the form of serious nursing home abuse or neglect. A study in the Journal of Primary Prevention explicitly stated that “social isolation has been demonstrated to lead to numerous detrimental health effects in older adults, including increased risk for mortality, dementia, re-hospitalization, and an increased number of falls.

The reasons that a resident may become socially isolated or withdrawn can vary, but the nursing home or care facility has a responsibility to address whatever the cause may be.

Some causes may include:

  • Forced isolation or neglect by staff. When a facility employs insufficient or underqualified staff, caregiving suffers. Residents may be left alone for long periods of time, or residents who are found to be “difficult” (usually those with Alzheimer’s or dementia) may be forcibly isolated from other residents, causing a further deterioration of their health.
  • Abuse. A resident may be put in a situation where they have been abused by a member of the nursing home staff. In these cases, the resident may be isolated or neglected so that they cannot speak out, or were threatened into silence, causing them to withdraw from social interaction.
  • The loss of friends and loved ones. This is very common among older adults and can lead to feelings of aloneness and isolation. Staff should try to overcome this by encouraging interaction with other residents and by providing compassionate care.
  • Loss of mobility or the impairment of speech, hearing or cognition. Embarrassment or the inability to communicate can make many older adults feel isolated. Facilities can prevent this by ensuring residents have access to hearing and other communication aids and by providing regular health examinations.

The failure to engage residents in social activities can exacerbate social isolation and cause serious harm to a resident’s physical and mental health. To avoid this, a quality care facility should employ properly trained and caring staff, and regularly provide residents with a sense of community and belonging.

If you suspect that a loved one had been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect due to social isolation, it is important to act now. You should report the facility to a local ombudsman and file a complaint. Then contact an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney like those at Hupy and Abraham. If you have any questions, you can schedule a free consultation by calling 800-800-5678 or by starting a live chat anytime at