Social Media Abuse of Nursing Home Residents Sparks Outrage

A recent ProPublica article identified over three dozen incidents since 2012 where nursing home residents’ dehumanizing or degrading photographs were posted to social media sites. In some of these photographs, the residents were partially or completely naked. 16 incidents involved the social media site, Snapchat, where a photo appears and then disappears within a few seconds. Since the report was issued in December there have been at least two additional incidents.

Senator Charles Grassley, a republican senator from Iowa, sent a letter to the Attorney General calling for action, making him the third senator calling for action after the publication of the report.  Previously, Senator Joe Donnelly requested an investigation by the Senate Aging Committee and Senator Tom Carper had asked federal privacy regulators what, if anything, they are doing to stop the inappropriate behavior.

Additionally, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is asking the U.S. Department of Justice for information about how aggressively it pursues elder abuse in nursing homes, particularly in cases in which workers share these degrading photographs on social media.

In response to the report, Senator Grassley stated that “the posts are degrading and horrifying” and highlighted the residents’ inability to protect themselves and fight back against the abusive treatment. The American Health Care Association, the nursing home industry trade group, says that they are taking the matter seriously and are coordinating additional training for staff, but that the inappropriate postings are “infrequent and uncommon.”

Degrading Social Media Postings of the Elderly by Nursing Home Staff is Unacceptable

Regardless of how “infrequent and uncommon” the social media postings are, the fact that there are any is unacceptable. The entire nursing home system needs to be held accountable when one of these abusive photographs appears on a social media site.  The country needs to adopt a zero tolerance policy for such horrific conduct.

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NY Nursing Home Injury Center