As we continue our journey through the pandemic of 2020, many of us have suffered negative outcomes related to loneliness and isolation. As the experts have been preaching and CMS finally agreed, isolation in anyone, but especially in seniors, can have a devastating, long-term effect. We are seeing this in our centers, with many deaths, albeit unrelated to the virus itself but definitely related to the lack of socialization.
As much as we know, have read, continue to learn, there are still things we are missing. A great example is an impact social isolation has on residents living with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). In an interesting article published in JAMA, the overwhelming consensus is that isolation can lead to a decline in cognitive function and chronic anxiety resulting in worsening movement disorders for residents with PD. Seriously, isn’t the loss of motor skills, stiffening of body parts, speech impediments, and swallowing difficulties enough? Now we have increased some of these symptoms by isolating our residents (maybe unnecessarily) for an extended period of time.
Sadly, as we continue to “open up” our centers, many family members may hardly know their loved ones, physically and cognitively, due to declines secondary to isolation. Please, take time to assess each of your residents, identify those at risk for further decline, work with skilled therapies, activities and social services on addressing unexpected declines and encourage/support families to be present and visible! Remember, “social connection is a nutrient that’s just as important as food or water” (Indu Subramanian, MD, Neurologist, UCLA). Stay the course, stay informed, and stay well!