Nursing home workers are taking advantage of their elderly patients by posting humiliating photographs of them on social media networks.

ProPublica recently identified thirty-five instances in which employees of assisted living facilities and nursing homes have taken and shared photos of elderly residents. Some of the photos depict the residents naked. Many of the cases involved Snapchat, which allows users to take and send photos and videos that appear to the end user for a few seconds before disappearing entirely.

For example, at Prestige Post-Acute and Rehab Center in Washington, a nursing assistant was found to have sent a fellow worker a Snapchat video of an elderly resident using a portable toilet. The resident’s pants were below her knees.

At Rosewood Care Center in Illinois, a nursing home employee recorded a co-worker using a nylon strap to hit a 97-year-old female resident in the face. The elderly resident had dementia. The video captured the resident crying, “Don’t! Don’t!” as the employees laughed.

At LifeHouse Vista Healthcare Center in California, an employee recorded a video of a partially nude female resident entering the shower. The video depicted a second employee behind the resident laughing. The employees shared the video on Snapchat. When the nursing home learned of the video, it suspended the employees and then fired them. The California Attorney General’s Office also charged one of the employees with elder abuse and invasion of privacy, misdemeanor offenses.

In New Hampshire, any person who believes or suspects in good faith that an incapacitated adult has been subjected to physical abuse, neglect or exploitation is required to notify the Department of Health and Human Services or a local law enforcement agency.  RSA 161-F:46 (2002). This duty extends to all persons, not just healthcare professionals, social workers, law enforcement officials and physicians.

In order to deter and prevent nursing home workers from abusing patients on social media, we all need to adhere to our reporting obligation.

If you suspect your loved one has been harmed as a result of physical abuse or neglect while at a nursing facility, please contact one of our experienced attorneys today to discuss your legal options.