Social Media as Abuse in Nursing Homes
In many cases, nursing homes and long-term care facilities are a necessary and helpful form of support for elderly loved ones. They provide additional care and assistance that other family members and loved ones often cannot provide. However, these locations also create a distinct power imbalance between elderly residents and able-bodied staff members. This leads to a serious problem of nursing home abuse across the country that presents itself in a multitude of different ways. The Des Moines Register reviewed a new form of abuse that is becoming prevalent in Iowa and across the nation – the use of social media platforms, such as Snapchat, as a way to anonymously abuse elderly nursing home residents.
The Investigative journalism source ProPublica has been tracking the growing amount of exploitation of nursing home residents through social media since 2015. There have been 65 cases reported of nursing home staff taking and posting unauthorized photos of residents that are often lewd or vulgar. Although some of these photos have been found on social media, such as FaceBook and Instagram, the most popular location is Snapchat, due to the photos’ limited availability. 6 of these cases of social media abuse have been reported in Iowa, which has urged Senator Chuck Grassley to request that social media companies do more to prevent this kind of behavior. Nursing homes are also taking steps to stop this form of abuse by further training their employees on the importance of patient privacy and dignity; however, this cannot reverse the damage which has already been done. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are concerned that social media abuse may have long-standing mental and emotional effects on the residents. Additionally, the family members of the elderly who have been exploited are outraged by this degrading behavior. Due to the increasing number of social media abuse cases that have been reported, Iowa legislators are taking steps to create regulations that hold abusive nursing home staff accountable for their actions. They hope that other state legislators will follow their lead.
Nursing home abuse of any kind is unacceptable and devastating to its victims and their loved ones. Individuals relying on others for care should not have to worry about this type of exploitation. Unfortunately, the anonymity and protection of social media make this a difficult problem to recognize and to remedy. However, with the growing awareness of this problem, social media platforms are taking steps to make it easier to report abusive content, which will hopefully help quickly reduce the number of these cases.
It may be difficult for families to recover after they have been a nursing home abuse victim, but there are steps that they can take to make this process easier. Not only is it important to stop the abuse once you are aware of it, but you may also file a lawsuit against the caretaker or nursing home responsible. While this cannot undo the damage that has already been done, taking action against the person responsible can helps families feel that justice has been served.