While social media has made positive changes in how we share information and connect with people, it has also opened many doors for abuse and bullying. An article by The Washington Post sheds light on how social media applications, such as Snapchat, create a new and terrifying way for our loved ones to be abused in nursing homes.
Nursing home abuse has unfortunately been present prior to social media. Those who we rely on as caretakers are capable of the following:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Financial theft or unlawful use of resources
- Sexual assault
While these acts of abuse are terrible in and of themselves, social media has enabled workers to post explicit pictures and videos of our loved ones. Some of these videos violate resident’s dignity and privacy, while others show horrifying mistreatment and abuse.
Some of these instances have led to criminal charges against nursing home employees due to violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). However, many instances go unreported or without criminal charges.
Social Media Provides a New Way for Caretakers to Abuse Nursing Home Residents
Two years ago, a nursing assistant in Centralia, Washington was found to have sent a video recording on Snapchat of a resident sitting on a portable toilet with her pants down, singing and laughing. The inspection report found the facility failed to monitor employee compliance of prohibited cell phone use.
A month later, a nursing home assistant in Illinois recorded a video of a group of employees watching the assistant jokingly slap a 97-year-old resident in the face with a nylon strap. The woman could be heard crying out in protest as she was being hit.
A former nurse’s aide in Ohio posted a video to Facebook of her hand pulling the back of a woman’s hair while other nursing home employees laugh in the background. The aide tagged the other employees involved and captioned the video, “I miss these mornings.”
Nursing Homes Need to Do More to Enforce Employee Cell Phone Bans
Unfortunately, these types of incidents in nursing homes often go underreported, given that the victims are not entirely aware of what is going on due to medical conditions. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which is in part responsible for regulating nursing home standards, is working to better define the concepts of abuse, exploitation and sexual abuse. Hopefully in doing so, the center can better protect our loved ones. Nursing homes need to better enforce cell phone bans in order to protect those being cared for.
Koonz, McKenney, Johnson, DePaolis & Lightfoot, L.L.P. is a personal injury law firm that represents victims of nursing home abuse in Washington, D.C., Greenbelt, MD and Fairfax, VA.