Social media highlighting issue of nursing home abuse

Nursing home abuse takes many forms.

In the past several years, there have been dozens of high-profile instances of nursing home abuse or neglect in facilities across the country. In some cases this even included nude or partially nude, dehumanizing or otherwise degrading photos of vulnerable nursing home residents (some of whom suffer from dementia, Alzheimer's or other conditions affecting their faculties and clearly couldn't give consent to the sharing of such images) shared on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or on the "disappearing content" app Snapchat. This issue, addressed by in-depth exposés by watchdog journalist group ProPublica and several major news organizations, has led federal and state legislators to call for investigations into nursing home safety as well as for new regulations aimed at stopping this and other types of nursing home abuse.

Social media getting the word out

Many of the instances of abuse referenced in these news stories came to light because of posts on social media, generally from one of the following types of sources:

  • The abusive nursing home and residential care facility staffers who thought it was funny to mistreat vulnerable residents in their care and to share pictures or video of that abuse on social media
  • Former employees blowing the proverbial whistle about abusive practices directly perpetrated, allowed or ignored by their former employers
  • Disgusted family members and friends who discovered the abuse or neglect of their loved ones and are spreading the word in an attempt to keep the same from happening to others

The shocking scope of the problem

A July 2015 report by the Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee shows how widespread the issue of physical, emotional, mental, sexual and financial abuse of nursing home residents has become. According to the report, an estimated one out of every three patients in a nursing home or assisted living facility has been subjected to some form of abuse, many of which resulted in tangible physical or mental harm to the residents.

Commonly seen incidents of abuse referenced in the report included:

  • Bedsores (also called "pressure sores" or "pressure ulcers," or by the medical term "decubitus ulcers")
  • Inadequate medical care (which can include not providing prescribed medications, not changing bandages or not giving patients timely access to health care providers for both acute and chronic conditions)
  • Malnutrition/dehydration
  • Preventable accidents (lack of supervision can lead to residents wandering off - known as "elopement" - as well as to falls, broken bones, bumps and bruises)
  • Inadequate sanitation/hygiene (not cleaning residents properly after restroom visits, refusing to give them baths or showers, or not changing clothes and linens following incidents of incontinence)

There are more overt incidents of abuse and neglect present in the report as well, including several examples of outright physical abuse of residents, such as hitting, scratching, punching, kicking or threatening them, as well as sexual violence and unnecessary use of restraints.

If you have reason to suspect that a loved one is being mistreated in a nursing home, assisted living facility, hospital, convalescent center or other residential care facility, speak up. Tell management about your concerns about the care that your relative or friend is getting, and think about filing a complaint with the state licensing board if your concerns aren't addressed. In addition, seriously consider speaking with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney like those at the law offices of Ford, Dean and Rotundo. Call the firm in the Aventura area - or anywhere in South Florida - at 305-670-2000, or send them an email today.