The coronavirus pandemic disproportionately impacted nursing homes. To date, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), over 134,000 residents have died from COVID-19, accounting for just under one-third of the pandemic’s overall death toll. The pandemic also exacerbated long-standing issues of social isolation in nursing homes through the visitation restrictions imposed by CMS, essentially creating a national lockdown of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.,  Before the pandemic, it was determined that social isolation could be as damaging to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
A study recently published in JAMA Network Open sheds even further light on the complexities and potential compounded nature of social isolation in nursing homes during COVID-19. The study, the first of its kind, found that long-term care facilities located in socially isolated neighborhoods were associated with an increased risk of 30-day all-cause mortality among residents. Socially isolated neighborhoods were characterized as those with a high proportion of single person households. Additionally, it found that long-term care facilities were significantly more likely to be in neighborhoods that were socially isolated, compared to those areas that were less isolated.
These findings lead to the consideration that social isolation experienced by residents in nursing homes is a product of both circumstances within the walls of the facilities and the geographic location of the facilities. The authors of the study recommend that special attention and strategies be implemented to ensure long-term care residents are connected with family and friends.
September 2, 2021 – C. St. John
 Hwang, T.-J., Rabheru, K., Peisah, C., Reichman, W., & Ikeda, M. (May 26, 2020). Loneliness and Social Isolation During the COVID-19 Pandemic. International Psychogeriatrics. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7306546/#r6
 CMS. Press release CMS announces new measures to protect nursing home residents from COVID-19. (March 13, 2020). Available at: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-announces-new-measures-protect-nursing-home-residents-covid-19
 U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration. The “Loneliness Epidemic”. (January 10, 2019). Available at: https://www.hrsa.gov/enews/past-issues/2019/january-17/loneliness-epidemic