Isolation is a deep-rooted challenge for nursing home residents. Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing home residents are more isolated than ever.
Earlier this year, nursing homes across the country were required to close their doors to visitors at the urging of CMS and local governments. While necessary to protect the residents from the virus, this social isolation has come with its own mental health consequences.
A group in Ohio recently studied the impact of isolation on residents in 25 nursing homes. Psychologist Mary Lewis of Reflections Health and Wellness in Columbus reported that she observed alarming increases in self-neglect by the residents. Some had stopped eating normally and were sleeping more than usual, while others seemed to have “shut down” completely. Though the Ohio governor changed social distancing rules in early June to allow for limited socially distant visits at nursing homes, Lewis observed that for her clients, this did not mitigate the loss of physical proximity and touch as much as they had hoped. Psychologists and social workers are helping to offset that loss by spending more time listening to residents and assisting them with the environmental changes of increased hand washing and mask-wearing. Reflections’ employees are also assisting and encouraging residents’ use of virtual visits with their loved ones, a practice that not only lessens the adverse effects of isolation, but also offers loved ones the opportunity to observe the conditions of the nursing home resident and his or her environment.