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Nursing Home Abuse via Social Media

A nursing assistant in a nursing home took photos with her cell phone of an elderly patient’s genitals while at work one day. She emailed the photos to a friend, who posted them to Facebook. The employee was fired and both were charged with invasion of privacy and conspiracy.Nursing Home Abuse via Social Media

A video surfaced on Facebook of a disabled nursing home resident confined to a wheelchair having her hair pulled and being verbally harassed. The nursing home employee responsible for the video was charged in that state with “willful violation of health laws,” which is a misdemeanor in that state.

This kind of nursing home abuse is far more widespread than many people realize. There is, in fact, an ongoing investigation of such complaints throughout the U.S.  Unfortunately, the two incidents above are merely the tip of the iceberg. Some of the “shared” pictures and videos are cruel and denigrating of the patients.

At the very least, taking pictures of nursing home residents is an invasion of privacy, violation of the resident’s rights, and a source of embarrassment to both the patient and his/her family. In other cases, the actions of the nursing home employees crossed into abuse, harassment, battery, assault, and elder abuse. In addition, these actions open the facility to charges of elder abuse, physical abuse, privacy violations, and patient neglect.

Let’s be clear: Most elder care and nursing home facilities are committed to providing high quality care for their patients or residents. Most facilities carefully screen employees at every level and have rules that should prevent employees from taking embarrassing and inappropriate pictures of patients. Most facilities instruct their employees that it is an invasion of privacy to take any pictures of residents and share them with others. Unfortunately, sometimes, even in the best facilities, employees make mistakes. Sometimes, even the best screening programs fail to identify a troublemaker.

What can you do? Before admitting a loved one to any nursing facility, inquire about patient privacy policies, history of policy violations, and whether employees are permitted to use cell phones or other electronic devices while on duty with patients. It might also be informative to ask how any cases of this kind have been handled and resolved in the past. If your loved one has his/her full cognitive abilities, it might be worth asking about any inappropriate activities he/she has witnessed. These should, of course, be reported immediately to the facility’s management team.

If you have become aware that a loved one is being victimized by one or more employees in a nursing home or assisted living facility and facility management is not responding appropriately, call me. I’ll be happy to discuss your loved one’s situation and possible responses you might wish to initiate.