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Medical News & Perspectives
July 16, 2020

Social Isolation—the Other COVID-19 Threat in Nursing Homes

JAMA. Published online July 16, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.13484

Residents in nursing homes that remain locked down during the novel coronavirus pandemic face another silent threat: social isolation. In early July, long-term care insiders said many older adults in homes with ongoing strict social isolation had increased depression, anxiety, worsening dementia, and failure to thrive.

“The physical and psychosocial wellbeing of residents has been tremendously impacted by the isolation and restrictions,” Lori Smetanka, JD, executive director of the advocacy group National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, said in an email.

As the pandemic not only continued but also surged throughout the summer, nursing homes faced a dilemma. Should they continue to ban visitors and group activities to protect their residents or should they relax restrictions to lessen social isolation’s mental and physical harms?

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