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Confinement and Isolation: Types of Elder Abuse

Updated March 4, 2020 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

When you seek the assistance of a professional caregiver or look into moving your elderly loved one into a nursing home, you expect them to be treated well and provided with everything they need to be happy and healthy. You should additionally be able to communicate with and visit them often without fear of retaliation.

Unfortunately, elder abuse is common, and your loved one could become a victim of abuse such as forced confinement or social isolation.

Confinement as Physical Elder Abuse

Confinement is defined as restraining or isolating an elder. Except for supervised medical purposes, there is no reason for physically confining an older adult.

An example of elder confinement is false imprisonment within a nursing home or long-term care facility environment. A staff member might prevent a resident from leaving their room by taking their wheelchair, crutches, or walker—leaving the elder without the ability to move. They could also threaten a resident with further abuse, such as depriving them of food or water.

Isolation as Emotional Elder Abuse

Social interaction and relationships with peers are key to emotional health. When a caregiver, long-term care facility staff member, or other abuser isolates an elder, it becomes a form of elder abuse.

Nursing Home Neglect

Nursing homes have the responsibility to provide social activities to residents and address any instances of social isolation. A failure to do so can cause serious harm to an elder’s emotional and psychological health.

Abusers in nursing homes, such as caregivers, staff members, or other residents, may threaten elders into silence, force them into isolation so they cannot speak out, or leave them alone for long periods of time.


Isolation can be used as a manipulation tool to force elders to trust the abuser—and only the abuser. By excluding outside contact, perpetrators make the victim distrust friends and family members, making them into the abuser’s pawn.

Loss of Social Group

A side effect of aging is the death of older friends and loved ones, which can lead to or exacerbate feelings of isolation and loneliness. Additionally, the loss of mobility or communication ability due to age can make it difficult for elders to communicate with their peers.

Warning Signs of Confinement and Isolation

An older person may not have the ability to ask for help if they are confined or isolated, so it’s up to you to familiarize yourself with the warning signs. Be on the lookout for these behavioral changes:

  • Withdrawal from social interactions
  • Depression, helplessness, or anger
  • Hesitation to speak freely
  • Fear
  • Secretive behavior

Additionally, pay attention to how the elder spends time with others. Is their contact with family members, friends, or visitors restricted? Do they have the opportunity to speak without another party present? Can they speak to medical professionals or clergy member in private? If so, it may mean they are being abused.

Contact a Nursing Home and Elder Abuse Attorney Today

If you suspect that your elderly loved one is being confined, isolated, abused, or exploited, contact the Indianapolis Nursing Home and Elder Abuse Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you fight for the compensation your family deserves.

Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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Let WKW put our experience to work for you. Contact us for your free case evaluation.


Or, call us today at (317) 920-6400

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