Is a Loved One Being Exploited on Social Media?
At Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group, we regularly raise the alarm about elder abuse, whether physical, emotional, sexual, or financial. But there is another type of elder abuse that might be on the rise, and that involves social media.
According to ProPublica, many nursing home residents have been secretly photographed or recorded by staff, who then share their recordings on social media websites, such as Facebook or Snapchat. These stories represent a disturbing new form of abuse: invasion of privacy facilitated by social media.
Back in 2015, ProPublica collected 35 different instances of staff at nursing homes taking pictures or video of residents without their consent and then sharing what they have recorded on social media. Some of those recorded were naked at the time or being beaten, slapped, or humiliated.
Among the incidents collected by ProPublica:
- A nursing home assistant using a nylon strap to slap the face of a dementia patient who was nearly 100 years old
- A nursing assistance recording video of an elderly patient sitting on a portable toilet with her pants pulled down to her knees
Experts predict that many more instances exist but that elderly patients with dementia are unable to detect what is happening or report it to family.
How to Protect a Loved One
Social media is a double-edged sword. It provides a new forum for abuse, but it also allows many incidents of abuse to be captured and shared with the authorities. Some incidents of elderly exploitation have resulted in criminal charges being filed against the perpetrators, which provides some measure of justice.
One thing you can do is to search for the social media profiles of the nursing home or assisted living facility, if they have them. However, staff are more likely to share embarrassing photos or videos on their own pages, so the next time you are visiting the nursing home try to get the names of everyone who works with your loved one. You can then check their sites themselves.
You can also raise any concerns with management of the nursing home. They will have a better handle on the identity of the people who work with your loved one, but you should not expect them to engage in a full-fledged investigation unless you have proof private information was posted.
When looking for a nursing home, you should also check whether the home bans the use of cellphones, which is what employees use to take pictures or record video. Admittedly, nursing homes often have trouble enforcing the ban, and some allow staff to continue working even after breaking the rules. But the presence of the ban at least shows that the nursing home is serious about patient privacy.
Has a Loved One Been Harmed?
Our lawyers at the Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group have brought many personal injury/wrongful death cases in The Villages and are capable of helping anyone who has been exploited in a nursing home or other assisted living facility. To speak with us, please call 800-743-9732 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our law firm.