Background: This exploratory study examines factors associated with isolation from informal social ties among geriatric psychiatry inpatients. Specifically, it examines the associations of diagnoses, psychiatric history, and measures of current functioning with social isolation.
Methods: Analyses rely upon data derived from the Resident Assessment Instrument – Mental Health (RAI-MH), which is a patient focused, multidimensional, comprehensive assessment instrument designed to be a component of a larger, integrated health information system linking mental health with home care, long-term care, acute care, rehabilitation, and palliative care.
Results: Controlling for age, multivariate results show that being married or widowed was associated with a lower odds of being isolated. Mood disorders were also associated with a lower odds of isolation, while a history of a personality disorder and a personal biography of institutionalization were both clearly associated with an increased odds for isolation. Although significant bivariate predictors in the multivariate model, both schizophrenic and organic diagnoses failed to reach statistical significance. In addition, patients hospitalized at an earlier age and/or predicted to have a longer stay on the current admission were much less likely to have contact with informal supports. Of the study variables indexing functional status, only activities of daily living (ADLs) remained a significant predictor for isolation in the final multivariate model.
Conclusions: The analyses demonstrate the detrimental effects of an earlier life experience with mental illness. Having an earlier age of illness onset may lead to a potentially greater impairment in establishing and maintaining informal social ties throughout the life course into older age. These analyses reinforce the need for comprehensive assessment of patients on admission and over time.