New Mexico Senior Isolation Attorneys
Senior Isolation is Elder Abuse
Social isolation is a form of elder abuse with serious consequences. The AARP Foundation says senior isolation is a growing epidemic, affecting more than eight million seniors in the U.S. today. The health risks of prolonged isolation are reported to be equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
In a groundbreaking study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the late John T. Cacioppo, Ph.D., former director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, established that loneliness and being alone are not the same thing. While social isolation can be defined as objective physical separation from other people, loneliness is the subjective, distressed feeling of being alone or separated from others.
People in nursing homes can be made to suffer loneliness even when many others are present in the facility. And this is a form of elder abuse.
How Does Senior Isolation Occur in Nursing Homes?
Nursing home staff may keep residents isolated by:
- Restraining or restricting their movements for reasons other than medical necessity or safety.
- Restricting mail, phone calls, and visitors, and otherwise limiting the person’s access and communication with the outside world.
- Telling others that the elder is unable or unwilling to communicate.
- Using physical or psychological restraints or threats of harm to prevent the older adult from communicating with others.
What Makes Social Isolation a Health Risk for Seniors?
The National Institute on Aging reports that research has linked social isolation to higher risks for a range of mental and physical health conditions, including:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Weakened immune system
- Cognitive decline
- Anxiety and depression
Conversely, research has shown that individuals who engage in productive, meaningful activities with other people tend to live longer, with a sense of purpose and elevated mood. Studies have also shown that interacting with others may improve cognitive function.
What Are Signs of Senior Isolation in Nursing Homes?
Social isolation is a form of elder abuse that usually leaves no physical marks. Signs to watch for in your elderly loved one include:
- Unopened mail that is returned to you, or no response to your letters
- Your loved one has a restricted ability to move or schedule
- You are allowed limited visits
- Your loved one has fewer interactions with family members and others
- Your loved one displays fearfulness, or indications that he/she does not feel safe
To help protect your elderly loved one from social isolation, stop by the facility for unscheduled visits from time to time. Check to see how the doors are locked. If your loved one needs mobility aids, such as a walker, check to see if they are kept nearby to allow for freedom to move. When you send mail to your loved one, request a response to help ensure that communications are being received. If you find signs of social isolation, contact the authorities and spend time with your loved one outside the facility. Your best course of action in this situation is to speak with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney.
Why Choose Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP?
Our firm was established in 2010, and we focus on nursing home abuse. Our attorneys have a deep understanding of nursing home abuse cases from a corporate as well as a legal and medical perspective.
If you suspect your elderly loved one has been socially isolated or mistreated in any way in a nursing home in Albuquerque, call Sorey, Gilliland & Hull, LLP at (903) 458-9138. Our New Mexico nursing home abuse lawyers are tough advocates for senior citizens who have been victims of abuse.