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The impact of isolation on the elderly

Elder abuse comes in many forms. It can be physical, emotional, mental or financial. The elderly can feel very vulnerable, especially when they are dependent on others for care and assistance, and that puts them at risk when caretakers decide to take advantage of their situation.

If you only look for the traditional signs — physical injuries, for instance — you may overlook specific types of abuse. One example is isolation. When the elderly get neglected or intentionally cut off from contact with others, it can have a hugely detrimental impact on their health and quality of life.

Social creatures

While many people value having some time to spend on their own, experts who study it say that we are still social creatures. We need that contact with others. We are used to social settings and interactions. Being alone simply is not natural. They warn that both mental and physical health can suffer when people experience isolation for a long period of time.

Some of the potential negative impacts include:

  • Increased anxiety levels: People who already deal with stress, anxiety and depression may see their symptoms get worse. Those who do not already have these ailments may see new symptoms arise. It can be taxing, and experts note that this can happen in just a few hours. Days or weeks of this treatment only makes it worse.
  • Confusion regarding time: People who get cut off from the outside world often have some confusion about how much time has gone by. Their perceptions are not accurate. This can really make them feel disoriented and stressed out.
  • Hallucinations: Again, people are inherently social. When the brain does not get the proper stimulation, it can lead to hallucinations and other serious mental conditions. The elderly, who may already deal with degenerative brain diseases, may be especially at risk.
  • Cognitive breakdown: In some of the worst cases, isolation can cause someone to have a complete mental breakdown. This could be someone who was healthy and alert before this treatment began. It could be someone who already had some mental issues that grew worse with the isolation. Will they ever fully recover?
  • Death: Tragically, researchers have even linked isolation to death. One study said that the risk of death rose by a minimum of 50 percent when people got cut off from social connections. Other statistics put it as high as 90 percent. Either way, it is clear that the ramifications can be just as serious as physical abuse.

Do you think that an elderly loved one is getting abused, whether through isolation or other means? If so, make sure you know all of the legal options that you and your family have.