According to WCMH-TV, a nursing home worker at Autumn Care Center in Newark, Ohio allegedly used a social media website to abuse residents. Reportedly, the nursing home employee taught two patients who suffer from dementia to sing a rap song called “I Love Coco,” which makes references to loving cocaine. After teaching the dementia patients the song, the nursing home worker then videotaped them performing the song and posted the video on Snapchat. In similar cases from around the country, patients have had dehumanizing photos taken of them by workers, including pictures where they were partially or fully nude, and then posted on Snapchat or other social media websites, such as Facebook or Twitter.
Protecting nursing home residents from social media abuse has become much more of a priority in recent years. This is due to the fact that an extremely disturbing trend has found momentum. The trend involves cases of nursing home abuse, like the one above, in which retirement home employees take degrading photographs of residents and post them online via social media websites. Combating this new type of nursing home abuse, which can be accomplished quickly and go undetected for extended periods before perpetrators are discovered, is not going to be easy.
Recognizing Signs of Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect
Common signs that someone is the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect include but are not limited to the following:
- Physical Abuse – Bruises, marks, sudden changes in behavior, open wounds, broken bones, cuts, broken eyeglass lenses and/or frames, puncture wounds or black eyes
- Psychological Abuse – Unexplained agitation, being consistently emotionally upset, withdrawing, not communicating or being nonresponsive
- Neglect – Living conditions are unsanitary (lice, dirty bedding, improper clothing, odor in room, bug bites), malnourished, hazards (lack of heat or air conditioning, unsafe wiring or lack of running water), health issues not being addressed, dehydrated, unsanitary hygiene or bed sores
- Sexual Abuse – Infections in the genital area, bleeding, bruising, stains and/or torn undergarments
- Financial Abuse – Sudden changes to will or trust, unauthorized ATM card charges, unexplained withdrawals from bank account, sudden addition of a new authorized user on an elderly person’s bank account/bank card, missing funds or valuables, bills unpaid even though funding resources available, finding that an elder’s signature on financial documents or unexplained transfers of titles, money and/or assets to a new family member or other party
Protecting Nursing Home Residents from Social Media Abuse
As more incidents involving nursing home workers posting degrading photos of residents come to light, protecting nursing home residents from social media abuse has become more and more of a priority for families and the public.
ProPublica raised awareness of the issue of social media abuse in nursing homes in a December 2015 article, identifying approximately 35 incidents nationwide since 2012. As a result of the article, reportedly, three US Senators have called for action from their fellow lawmakers as well as the Attorney General regarding ways to prevent this sort of nursing home abuse. However, what can families do in the meantime to make sure their elderly relatives are not the next victims of this disturbing trend?
Here are a few tips from the National Center on Elder Abuse about how to prevent nursing home abuse and neglect:
- Make sure the nursing home has a policy concerning abuse prevention
- Research whether the nursing home’s definitions of abuse and neglect are in line with federal and state legislation as well as industrywide rules of practice
- Ask if the nursing home guarantees confidentiality to staff members and residents who report witnessing incidents of abuse or neglect
- Review nursing home’s policy for responding to reports of abuse or neglect to ensure they are clear and concise
- Make sure that you and other trusted family members and friends are regularly visiting and checking up on relatives in nursing homes
- Ask about the nursing home’s hiring policies and whether it does background checks on potential employees
- Find out how and how often employees are monitored while interacting with patients
- Make sure the nursing home’s training policies meet or exceed industry standards and government regulations
- Research the nursing home facility’s record to ensure it is not had incidents of abuse in the past
- Take a thorough tour of the nursing home both before you allow your loved one to reside there and incrementally while your relative is a resident
- Stay updated on and continually keep an eye out for the signs of nursing home abuse and neglect
“Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent.” – Psalm 71:9
Stanley A. Davis is a nursing home abuse attorney who has dedicated his law practice to protecting the people of Nashville, Tennessee and its surrounding communities.