ProPublica, a public interest investigative reporting organization, recently released a report identifying 35 instances of nursing home workers sharing disturbing and degrading photos of elderly residents on social media between 2012 and 2014. In many of these posts, residents were partially clothed or completely naked. Some of these incidents have led to criminal charges, and although the report did not indicate this, the families would be well within their rights to bring lawsuits in all of these cases.
At the Rosewood Care Center in Illinois, worker posted a video of a 97-year old woman resident with dementia crying out “Don’t! Don’t!”as they lightly slapped her with a nylon strap. Another incident in Newark,Ohio involved a video where workers had coached residents to say, “I’m in love with the coco” (slang for cocaine) while holding a sign that said “Got these hoes trained.” In most videos employees can be heard laughing in the background at the expense of the dignity of these elderly patients.
Nursing home employees who post humiliating content on social media featuring unwilling or unknowing residents are committing a crime in most instances, and potentially expose the facility to civil liability for a lawsuit. While no facilities have yet to be brought up on criminal charges for these incidents,individual employees have been convicted under some of the following:
· Violations of HIPAA, the federal patient privacy law and state privacy laws.
· Using a computer to commit a crime (federal and state laws).
· Willful violations of state health laws and codes (usually the acts depicted involve something specifically prohibited by these laws).
· Voyeurism, which is covered in Massachusetts Laws 272 Section 104, and defined as the electronic recording or surveillance of nude or partially nude persons.
· Elder abuse and failure to report elder abuse.
Abuse at nursing homes is nothing new. These facilities have always had to deal with some employee’s sexually assaulting residents or neglecting them, but the publication of abuse on social media presents new challenges, especially in the seeming callous nature of many of the incidents.In many of the cases cited the employee claimed to have no idea that what they did was wrong, often saying, “It was just for a laugh.”
While most people who work at nursing homes are wonderful and competent professionals, there are bound to be a few who engage in this new brand of abuse. The law in Massachusetts clearly imposes safety, health and care obligations on nursing homes and their employees. If you or someone you love has been the victim of nursing home abuse contact our qualified attorneys for a free consultation today.