In a disturbing and growing trend, nursing home employees are posting disrespectful and embarrassing pictures of residents on social media. ProPublica has identified 35 instances since 2012 in which workers at nursing homes and assisted-living centers have shared photos or videos of residents, some of whom were partially or completely naked. The most popular outlet being used for sharing of these images is Snapchat, an app that allows users to send photos or videos that will appear for a few seconds then disappear with no lasting record. Some of these incidents have resulted in criminal charges, but most have not. Photos taken without resident’s permission may violate the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the federal patient privacy law that carries civil and criminal penalties.
While growing numbers of incidents are being reported, it is feared that an astonishing amount of these harmful photos being shared are unrecorded. Using the Snapchat app, employees may send their disappearing photo or video to a group of “friends”. But the issue can only be addressed if someone in the group reports the act to the necessary authorities.
In February 2014, a nursing assistant at Prestige Post-Acute and Rehab Center in Centralia, Washington, sent a co-worker a Snapchat video of a resident sitting on a bedside portable toilet with her pants below her knees while laughing and singing. The following month, at Rosewood Care Center in St. Charles, Illinois, one nursing assistant recorded another using a nylon strap to slap the face of a 97-year-old woman with dementia. On the video, the woman could be heard crying out, “Don’t! Don’t!” while she was being struck and the two employees laughed. And in February 2015 at Autumn Care Center in Newark, Ohio, a nursing assistant recorded a video of a resident lying in bed as she was coached to say, “I’m in love with the coco,” the lyrics of a gangster rap song (coco is slang for cocaine). The nursing assistant shared the video with a banner across the resident’s chest that read, “Got these hoes trained.” The son of the resident said that his mother had worked at a church for 30 years and would have been devastated at her involvement in such a video post.
One suggested solution to solve the issue of illegal sharing of nursing home resident images is to ban employee use of personal cell phones, even to the extent of requiring employees to turn in their cell phone to a supervisor at the beginning of their shift. Many facilities are now requiring employees to attend social media classes where privacy policies are thoroughly reviewed and discussed. Every elderly resident of a nursing home facility deserves to be nothing less than respected and dignified. To learn more about social media and the role it can play in nursing home resident abuse contact Thomas Law Offices for more information.