A New Shocking Kind of Nursing Home Abuse

When we think of nursing home abuse, most of us imagine neglect, isolation and financial exploitation, but there is a form of abuse many are not aware of and itís on the rise.

Some nursing home and long term care facility workers are conducting what we now call ďsocial media abuseĒ against their patients. This includes taking inappropriate photos or video of elderly patients in their care and posting them on social media outlets such as Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.

According to ProPublica which has been tracking these instances since 2015, there have been 65 documented cases of inappropriate social media posts by employees since 2012, but itís presumed this is a fraction of all posts of this graphic nature. One of the more stomach-turning instances was a photo of the backside of a patient in long term care and the gloved hand of a worker holding fecal matter that was posted to Snapchat. It was captioned, ďthis is what I do at my job.Ē Another included pictures of a residentís genitalia and video of residents engaging in sexual intercourse.

The extremely vulgar and graphic nature of these posts are appalling violations of a patientís privacy. They not only threaten the personís dignity, but many times are blatantly against the law and occasionally have led to criminal charges.

Most of the 65 cases identified by ProPublica involve the popular social media app, Snapchat, where photos or videos show for a matter of seconds and then disappear. The mental abuse associated with these sorts of social media posts unfortunately lasts much longer for both the victim and their loved ones.

In an effort to curb this disturbing trend among long term care facility workers, last summer state health departments were told by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to make sure they have policies in place to prevent taking or distributing demeaning photos and video of nursing home patients. The need for stringent policies was further recognized in 2016 when a certified nursing assistant in Iowa shared a particularly demeaning photo of an elderly patient with his pants down covered in feces and there were no policies in effect at the time to hold him accountable for his actions.

A scan of the documented cases of social media abuse is enough to make most people feel sick. The demeaning nature of these posts rob extremely vulnerable patients, many of which suffer from dementia or Alzheimerís, of their dignity and put them at risk of ridicule. Nursing home and long term care facility employees are trusted to respect their patients privacy and these indecent posts are a blatant misuse of their position.

With an estimated 1 in 14 of all elder abuse cases being reporter to authorities, it can be presumed the number of social media abuse cases is much higher than the 65 cases found by ProPublica. While a number of nursing homes and long term care facilities now have policies in place that require the reporting of such instances of abuse, most cases come to light in government inspection reports that hold them to a specific standard.

The blame is not just resting on the shoulders of these facilities. Started by Iowa Senator Charles Grassley whose state was home to some of the worst cases of social media abuse of the elderly, the social media apps themselves are being held accountable for the upswing of elder abuse cases of this nature. Currently if an individual reports elder abuse through the app, they will get a message saying the app is unable to do anything with a third-party report, which leaves many victims of elderly abuse who cannot defend themselves out of the equation. When confronted with this issue, both Facebook and Snapchat have publicly stated they are working to curb the issue of abusive pictures and videos found on their sites.

As more of these cases come to light and nursing homes become more vigilant in their reporting and punishment for such conduct, we can hope more stringent policies and social media monitoring will take place. Social media abuse of the elderly is another way for people to prey on our most vulnerable citizens and as a society, it is our job to protect those in need.

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Marie W
Marie W10 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hillabout a year ago

We should send our elderly to prisons and the criminals to nursing homes!

Kathryn I
Kathryn Iabout a year ago

I blame the nursing home administrators, who hire such Scum!! If such were to happen with my loved one, that nursing home would be looking at a hefty lawsuit--and not for the money either!1

Carla V
Carla Vabout a year ago

Triste !

Maureen G
Maureen Gabout a year ago

There are so many genuine complaints about nursing homes that I fear the day when I am taken to hospital by ambulance as an emergency and end up in a nursing home never to return to my home which is sold up to pay for my care in a place that is run to make profits often ahead of good caring patient care. This comment comes from knowing of a substantiated case of neglect in a nursing home of someone I know personally.

Graham P
Graham Pabout a year ago

A lot of sick people about!!!

Angela G
Angela Gabout a year ago

on the job should turn in phones until their breaks

Heather B
Heather Babout a year ago

This is a very sad

Irene S
Irene Sabout a year ago

I get, that overworked and underpaid staff could be inattentive and insensitive but I´ll never get this kind of abuse.

Tara W
Tara Wabout a year ago

What what what?????