Social media, when utilized positively, has numerous advantages and benefits for its users. It keeps people in contact, it can provide a sense of closeness and support; it is a vast source of entertainment and especially communication. However, just like with most things in life, it can be and is oftentimes used in the utmost wrongful ways. One of those ways is when social media is used as a source of abuse and shame towards elderly people in nursing homes or assisted living communities.
What Does Social Media Abuse Look Like In Nursing Homes?
When you picture social media abuse, you may typically imagine a group of teenagers “snap-chatting,” or “instagramming,” their weekend adventures with friends and partners, as they binge on drugs, possibly committing crimes in the aftermath. What may not occur to you is the thought that similar injustices are taking place in the homes you’ve entrusted to take care of your loved ones, in what is now their most critical time of need. Yes, even nursing homes are no stranger to the abuses of social media in present day society.
Throughout the years, numerous cases have surfaced involving various caregivers from a multitude of nursing homes who have used social media to blatantly ridicule, embarrass, and victimize the elderly and ill-individuals they had pledged to care for and assist. Examples include Snapchat stories of incontinent, undressed, and confused residents. Other examples include residents being asked inappropriate questions, and being photographed while in the bathroom.
Social Media Abuse Statistics
A ProPublica review discovered 35 cases since 2012 of nursing home workers or assisted living workers who had shared videos or photos, or both, of residents on social media. More details about these incidents can be found here.
What Are the Laws Pertaining to This Issue?
Although many of the above-mentioned cases ended with criminal charges, others have not – for example, a woman who photographed a resident covered in his own feces did not face any consequences – this took place in Iowa, where the law states “restricted content” must be shown for someone to be charged with sexual exploitation in regards to uploading photos or videos. Though the laws surrounding social media abuses in regards to nursing homes are, needless to say, lacking, various senators are working towards identifying these problems in hopes of providing eventual solutions, thus ultimately preventing future issues.
Federal health regulators have plans underway to crack down on nursing home employees who are abusing social media and exploiting vulnerable residents. One Senator even reached out to social media companies asking them to pay more attention to this form of abuse on their platforms.
Individuals being recorded must consent to the recording and approve of its distribution in accordance to the most common of legalities. However, when it comes to many of the residents in nursing homes, their cognitive functions are often times impaired and they are unable to give this kind of consent.
Social media is being used everywhere and anywhere – and in many ways, even in your local nursing home. You cannot control the actions of others, however, you can control your own. Be involved and attentive to your loved one’s care, because anyone can become a potential victim of social media abuse.
Laurence Banville. Esq is the managing partner and face of Banville Law. Laurence is licensed to practice law in the state of New York. Originally from Ireland, Banville moved to the United States of America where he worked at law firms, refining his litigation and brief writing crafts. He is also the recipient of the Irish Legal 100 and the Top 40 Under 40 awards.