As Senior Facilities Scramble To Prevent Disease, Social Isolation Poses A Different Threat

Marsha Pallanck used to be a social butterfly in her Carmichael assisted living facility. Her best friend Kathy Midgley, who lives in Rocklin, says she was so busy, it was hard to get her on the phone.

"She’d play bingo after dinner and at about 7:10 that was the best time to reach her," Midgley said. "Because otherwise she wasn’t in her room except to go brush her teeth and then go to the next activity."


But Aegis Living Carmichael cancelled bingo and other social events due to COVID-19. So Pallanck started passing the time on a chair in her doorway.


"And she just sits there and looks out, and when people go by, ‘Hi! How are ya?'"


Most California facilities are asking residents to stay in their rooms. They’re also canceling visiting hours, group dining, and anything that could put vulnerable seniors at risk of infection. More than 250 of the state’s 1200 skilled nursing facilities have had a COVID-19 outbreak. 


Many people with a loved one in a facility are concerned about the toll this isolation period is taking. Experts and advocates say as senior care homes take steps to prevent disease, they also need to find ways to help residents connect with each other, and with the outside world.


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