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Nursing home abuse goes digital

Thanks in no small part to the popularity of social media (including Facebook and Twitter, as well as apps like Snapchat), those perpetrating abuse against the elderly and vulnerable in nursing homes, long-term care facilities, memory care residences and assisted living facilities are finding a new audience - and a new way of getting caught. There have been a spate of reports from across the country (some of them in Illinois) of workers trusted to care for the elderly, ill and incapacitated in facilities abusing that trust and documenting the abuses in photos or video that is then posted to social media networks.

The problem has become so widespread that several U.S. Senators have called for Congress, the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice to investigate the issue and prove that offenders are being held accountable. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a highly publicized letter to the DOJ seeking a thorough investigation, detailing several examples of shocking abuses - including a Champaign, Illinois, man who allegedly used social media to solicit men to have sex with elderly memory-affected female residents at the home where he was employed.

Other egregious examples were detailed in an investigative piece by watchdog journalist group ProPublica earlier this year, including:

  • Taking pictures or video of elderly residents' genitalia and using Snapchat to send the pictures
  • Capturing video of residents being harassed or physically abused (including pulling hair, being whipped or beaten with cords or belts)
  • Posting picture or video of partially clothed or unclothed residents in the act of being changed, using the restroom or bathing on sites like Instagram and Facebook
  • Posting videos of staffers asking residents inappropriate questions (regarding their previous sex lives or drug use)
  • Posting or sharing video of memory-affected residents being coached to say inappropriate things (like lyrics to rap songs or profane language)

Simply put: these acts are degrading and dehumanizing to the very residents these abusive staff members were entrusted to protect. If your loved one has been subjected to any form of elder abuse - including the posting or sharing of derogatory photos or video - you may have legal recourse. Contact the proper Illinois authorities to report the abuse, and also consider seeking the advice of an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney in your area.

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