For months, families and operators of long-term care facilities have been telling me about the indirect toll the covid-19 pandemic has taken on residents. Not on those who have sickened or died from the virus, but on those whose quality of life has been severely harmed by the social isolation it caused. Now, we are beginning to learn more about the devastating consequences for seniors who may have been spared by the virus but suffered nonetheless.
An important new study by the research firm Mathematica for the Connecticut Dept of Public Health finds that during the early months of the pandemic, nursing home residents were significantly more likely to become depressed, lose substantial amounts of weight, suffer incontinence, and lose cognitive function. And most striking, these conditions occurred at high rates even among those residents who did not contract the virus.
Why? Isolation appears to be a significant cause. The dangers of loneliness for older adults were well-known long before the pandemic. But covid-19 forced government regulators and operators of long-term care facilities to make a difficult choice.