South Carolina Nursing Home Abuse: Social Media

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An especially disturbing news report was recently filed by a Fox Affiliate in Massachusetts. According to the report, employees of a Lowell, Massachusetts nursing home were violating and abusing elderly patients by posting humiliating videos and pictures on social media applications.  

Two nursing assistants allegedly took snapchat videos of a 76 year old woman. The woman has both  Parkinson’s disease and dementia. The video was highly unflattering and the employees were mocking the woman, who was highly confused, in the video. Even more disturbing, the reporters who filed the story reviewed federal healthcare records and determined social media-based nursing home abuse is on the rise. The emotional humiliation that the residents at this Massachusetts nursing home faced is far from an isolated incident. If your loved one has been emotionally harmed by employees of a nursing home or an assisted living facility, you need to contact an experienced Charleston nursing home abuse attorney for immediate legal assistance.


Federal Pressure to Stop Social Media Related Nursing Home Abuse


In March 2016, Senator Chuck Grassley, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, sent a public letter to the Attorney General Loretta Lynch. The letter was in response to the apparent rise of the new phenomenon of social media-based exploitation and abuse. The senator’s letter noted that there have now been many cases around the country in which nursing home employees have used social media applications such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to psychologically abuse residents. It is an extremely disturbing and disheartening trend. The vast majority of nursing homes in South Carolina, and around the country, receive some form of federal funding through Medicare and Medicaid. This means that the government may have sufficient authority to enact new health and safety standards which could make an impact in this area. Ultimately, Senator Grassley’s open letter was seeking to get a handle on the situation. It asked the Justice Department to provide information that would answer several specific questions, including:


  • A list that details each case of nursing home abuse, from the last five years, that has involved social media or any other form of electronic abuse;
  • The specific steps that the Justice Department has taken, or intends to take, to stop this type of abuse from occurring; and
  • Information pertaining to any ongoing investigations that involve social media and nursing home abuse.


What Qualifies as Psychological Abuse?


Fundamentally, the abuse of nursing home residents on social media is simply a new form of psychological abuse. This type of mocking, denigration and humiliation can do tremendous damage to the mental, and emotional health of your vulnerable loved one. When this type of abuse occurs, swift legal action can, and should, be taken. Psychological abuse can take many specific forms, but you should always watch for reports that employees have subjected your loved one to any type of insults, humiliation, harassment, manipulation or any other behavior that makes your loved one feel bad about themselves. The employees of South Carolina assisted living facilities, and therefore the facilities themselves, have a legal obligation to look out for the health and safety of their patients. They have a responsibility to ensure that all residents are receiving an adequate quality of care. When they fail to live up to that responsibility, whether through some type of negligence, or by causing active psychological damage, the facilities must be held accountable for the damage that they have caused.


What Are the Signs of Psychological Abuse?


In the case from Lowell, Massachusetts, the families of the victims ran into a significant, but common, problem; their loved ones had been abused on social media for quite some time, but it was difficult to find any evidence. In that specific case, the social media platform Snapchat had been used to host the videos of the abuse. Videos on Snapchat are sent to friends and are then typically automatically deleted after they have been viewed. Since the victim was an elderly woman with dementia, pinning down the fact that psychological abuse had taken place was made much more difficult. This presents an issue that is very representative of many other psychological nursing home abuse case: the proof of abuse is can be very difficult to find. The signs of physical abuse can often be seen directly on the body, but the signs of mental trauma are subtle and can be hidden out of view. So many South Carolina families run into similar problems. How do you know when something is wrong? You should remember that it is always better to be safe rather than sorry. If you feel like something is ‘off’ you should trust your gut and vigorously follow up with the issue. Some specific warning signs that you should watch out for include:


  • Unexplainable changes in your loved one’s mood or attitude;
  • A sudden onset of depression;
  • The avoidance of eye contact or general ‘withdrawnness’ from human interaction;
  • Noticeable signs of agitation or anxiety; or
  • The particular avoidance of any specific staff members.


Finally, you should always take the complaints of your vulnerable loved one seriously. This can sometimes be difficult if your loved one has diminished mental capacity. However, if they tell you something is wrong, you owe it to them to follow up with the issue. Signs of mental and emotional abuse can be extremely subtle. If you notice anything that concerns you, it is advisable to get your case in the hands of an experienced Charleston nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will be able to help you get in touch with the appropriate South Carolina authorities, and will be able to help you determine what legal action will be necessary.  


Contact an Experienced Charleston Nursing Home Abuse Attorney


Unfortunately, mistreatment of vulnerable people remains far too common in Charleston area nursing homes. Our elderly and disabled loved ones deserve so much better. If you believe that your loved one has been a victim of poor treatment while living in an assisted living facility, you need to speak to an aggressive South Carolina nursing home abuse attorney today. At the David Aylor Law Offices, our experienced Charleston nursing home abuse team works hard to protect the rights of those in nursing homes. Please do not hesitate to contact our office today to learn more about how we can help you and your family. Initial legal consultations are free of charge.

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