When it comes to elder abuse, most people think of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and even financial abuse. However, rarely does one think of social media as a way for nursing home staff to abuse their residents. It’s unfortunate to think about, especially among residents of West Virginia nursing homes or their families and friends, but federal health regulators have found instances of nursing home employees who take demeaning photos and videos of residents and then post them on social media.
If you have found that nursing home staff is abusing you or a loved one through social media, it’s essential to contact professional and experienced legal representation. With years of experience in and around Charleston, WV, attorney Charles M. Love of the Love Law Firm can help pursue justice and seek compensation for any emotional, physical, or sexual abuse that has occurred (or published on social media). Call our Charleston WV law office today at (304) 344-5683.
When Social Media Becomes Abuse
The crackdown on social media abuse in nursing homes came after a series of reports were released that documented abuse in nursing homes and assisted living centers. The abuse came through Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram. The abusive photos displayed residents that were naked, covered in feces, or even dead, as well as images of blatant abuse. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent out a memo in August, 2016, saying that they should begin investigating for this form of elder abuse. The CMS also stated that nursing homes have a responsibility to protect their residents’ privacy, to prohibit abuse, and to provide training on how to prohibit abuse and investigate allegations of abuse.
Social media photos and videos of residents can become abuse in many forms, whether for violating the residents’ rights or for showcasing private affairs and/or instances of abuse. Some past instances have included:
- A nursing home assistant sent a photograph of a resident’s genitals and posted the image on Facebook
- A former employee uploaded a video to Facebook showcasing taunting, discrimination, and abuse of a resident
- A nursing home employee uploaded a photo of a resident sitting on a commode
- A nursing assistant took a photo of a female resident’s exposed genitals and shared the photo on Snapchat
- A employee recorded another employee slapping a resident’s face with nylon strap while the resident cried, “Don’t!” and the aides laughed.
Legal Consequences for Exploiting Elders
There are legal consequences for exploiting elders by taking and sharing abusive photos of them. The severity of the consequences depend on the circumstances of the case, and in some cases, the social media abuse included criminal charges of privacy, battery, elder or dependent adult abuse, and failing to report abuse. In other cases, however, the law is unable to take the social media into consideration (although this is changing).
How a Facility Can Prevent Social Media Abuse
A nursing home facility needs to take the proper measures to prevent social media abuse from ever occurring, or face possible criminal charges and/or civil lawsuits. Some ways to prevent abuse can include:
- Reporting inappropriate pictures or videos immediately. Save those pictures or videos for documentation.
- Implement a no cell phone policy in the facility
- Educate employees on the consequences for taking and sharing demeaning images on social media
- Take allegations of social media abuse very seriously and act appropriately when an allegation arises
Contact the Love Law Firm Today
If you or a loved one was the victim of social media abuse, you may be eligible for compensation for damages incurred. However, when pursuing justice for this type of abuse, it’s critical to have an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who not only understands how this abuse affects the individual, but also how to pursue a lawsuit in a West Virginia court. To speak with Love Law Firm attorney Charles M. Love for a free, no-obligation consultation, call our Charleston, WV, law office today at (304) 344-5683.