Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

How Do the Support Networks of Older People Influence Their Experiences of Social Isolation in Care Homes?

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Abstract:  Understanding how to better support older people living in care homes is imperative for improving their wellbeing and quality of life. Despite this, little research has explored how support networks are structured and composed for individual residents. This study aimed to explore how, and by whom, residents felt they were supported, and how this support influenced their experiences of social isolation within the care home. The study included 36 residents from seven care homes located in the Scottish central belt in 2018. This article uses egocentric network analysis to analyse the structure and composition of the support networks, while a thematic analysis of qualitative interviews resulted in themes exploring how a resident’s support network impacts their social isolation within the care home. Findings indicated that residents’ most supportive alters were adult children, while staff members were only nominated as providing support in one third of support networks, despite most residents needing specialised care every day. Ambiguous relationships within residents’ support networks lead to feelings of social isolation, as well as adding to residents’ isolating behaviour. This suggests that national care frameworks, such as person‐centred care frameworks, which advocate for coordinated support between residents, relatives, and staff are not being implemented effectively and that more needs to be done to break down barriers to inclusion for care home residents.

Keywords:  care homes; meaningful relationships; social inclusion; social isolation; support networks



© Jennifer M. Ferguson. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.