Reducing Readmissions: Tackling Social Isolation

The focus in health care today is broadening to view a bigger picture of the patients with whom we work. No longer are we focusing solely on a narrow diagnosis or specific health issue. A growing body of research is making it clear that to be improve outcomes and lower costs, we need to look at the whole person.


Social isolation, or loneliness, is increasingly being seen as major risk factor for re-hospitalizations and death, according to research from the Annals of Internal Medicine that we cited in our loneliness blog post last year.

Now new research from the Arkin Mental Health Clinic in Amsterdam and posted in a blog on found a strong ‘link between “feeling lonely” and age-related mental decline.’ Interestingly, the research also noted that it was ‘feeling alone, rather than living alone, that puts seniors at the greatest risk of the ill effects that come with isolation.’

Adding to the greater impetus on socialization is a new tool being pioneered in post-acute and long-term care settings that will enable providers to shift from the medical focus to one that focuses on improving people’s quality of life. And it starts with better understanding their preferences for living.

According to an article in Provider Magazine, the tool known as Preferences for Everyday Living Inventory (PELI) provides vital insights on residents’ preferences in 5 domains of daily life: social relationships, growth and diversionary activities, self-dominion, and enlisting others in care.

In one PELI pilot study at a 324-bed nursing facility, they found that ‘matching preferences to activities tripled resident participation in recreational activities.’ The article further noted that ‘when activities are appealing, or services are provided in a familiar way, seniors are more apt to be receptive.’

Lifesprk has been using its 7 element of living well as an integral aspect of its Lifesprk ExperienceTM model to discover and prioritize client preferences for eight years now and has found similar success in effectively engaging clients living in campuses, memory care and in the community.

So what can you do to help your clients beat the risks of social isolation?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Assess client social isolation: Ask them about feelings of loneliness and their preferences for social interaction?
  • Look for community resources that can address loneliness and social isolation: check with providers on what steps they take to engage people and address their socialization. How regular is the practice? What tools and resources do they use?
  • Learn more about tools such as PELI and where those types of approaches are being employed.

For more information about social isolation and how it is being addressed in the community, please call our Lifesprk Navigation service at 952-345-8770 or email us.