Nursing home workers continue to violate residents’ rights by posting
inappropriate photos of them on social media. The steady rise in elder
abuse incidents suggests that nursing homes are not doing enough to train
employees and safeguard resident privacy.
As we previously discussed on this San Diego Injury Blog, the high-tech
form of elder abuse made headlines last year after a
ProPublica investigation revealed that nursing home workers are increasingly taking
humiliating pictures of residents and posting them on SnapChat and other
social media platforms without their consent.
In response to the
ProPublica report, the Inspector General of the Federal Department of Health and
sent an alert to 50 State Medicaid Fraud Control Units. It directed investigators to be increasingly aware of social media nursing
home abuse and investigate complaints accordingly.
Despite increased attention on the elder abuse issue,
ProPublica recently reported that it uncovered 18 additional incidents involving unauthorized photos
and videos of nursing home residents on social media platforms in the
last year. Below are some of the most recent incidents:
- Earlier this year, at the Clarksville Skilled Nursing & Rehab Center
in Iowa, a community member notified the administrator that an employee
sent a Snapchat photo of a resident’s buttocks and a staff member
holding a bowel movement in the palm of a gloved hand. The photo’s
caption said something along the lines of "This is what I do at my
job." No fewer than 3 staff members to receive the photo failed to
report it to the facility's administration. In fact, according to
an inspection report, one staffer said "it did not cross her mind
that it was wrong to take a photo and send it out on Snapchat.”
- At an assisted living facility in Florida, one medical assistant posted
a Snapchat video of two residents having sex. After confessing to detectives,
the employee was fired, arrested, and subsequently charged with one count
of video voyeurism and one count of video voyeurism dissemination. She
has since pleaded not guilty.
- A nursing assistant at a Wisconsin facility sent a Snapchat picture of
a resident's inner thighs and genitals (taken while the resident sat
on the toilet) to a former employee of the facility. The resident's
face was not in the picture but the former employee recognized the sweater
she was wearing.
San Diego elder abuse lawyers, we are appalled and saddened that our most vulnerable population is being
subjected to such disrespectful treatment. We are also discouraged that
additional action has not yet been taken to address the abuse.
ProPublica reports that Snapchat is implementing a system that allows users to
report abuse directly within the Snapchat app. The Department of Health and Human Services has also stated that it is
drafting social media guidance for healthcare providers; however, there
is no timeline for its release.
For concerned loved ones, it is important to be proactive. Ask the nursing
home administrator if there are employee policies governing cell phone
and social media use. If nursing home workers are permitted to carry their
phones while working, it is important to verify that they have been properly
trained regarding patient privacy. Loved ones can also use the federal
government’s online tool,
medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare, to check the overall reputation of the facility.
a San Diego personal injury attorney
at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation
if you or someone you love has been victimized while under the care of
a nursing home facility.