The newsgroup ProPublica has been investigating reports of nursing home abuse since 2015, looking as far back as 2012. Rather than focusing on physical abuse, investigators are looking into cases of orderlies taking unauthorized photographs of elders in compromising situations and sharing the images to social media, namely Snapchat. According to their findings, at least 65 cases have been uncovered, 18 of them occurring in 2016.
Within the ProPublica article – click here to view it in full – investigators noted that 18 reported incidents in one year is a significant spike over any of the other years reviewed. It is believed that either more incidents of privacy invasion are being caught due to increased vigilance, or more incidents are occurring overall, which would not be an improvement. The news comes not long after the American Health Care Association promised to increase assisting living facility staff training opportunities, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) spoke of cracking down on offenders.
A third of the reported 2016 incidents occurred in Iowa alone, prompting Iowa State Senator Charles Grassley to ask social media companies to do more about abusive, humiliating, and harmful images posted through their apps. Snapchat has claimed that it is developing an in-app system to report pictures that violate the law or the app’s own guidelines.
Slow Government Intervention Is Not Helping
The Department of Health and Human Services and its Office for Civil Rights has federal authority to penalize nursing homes and assisted living facilities that violate resident rights, but not much action has actually been taken. ProPublica reports that the agencies told the newsgroup a year ago that guidelines were being created to clarify violations and penalties. At the time of its most recent reporting, there have been no new guidelines or relevant updates.
The federal government’s own slow uptake to penalize offenders might be making it easier for nursing homes to “get away with” lenient internal policies. One Iowa assisted living facility – the Lone Tree Health Care Center – managed to fight a $68,000 fine down to $34,000 after an employee used Snapchat to post unsolicited pictures of elderly residents. At this time, individuals and family members must largely fend for themselves by using nursing home abuse claims to seek justice and fair compensation for the egregious violation of privacy and failure to maintain an acceptable level of care.
Families in Maryland can turn to Brown & Barron, LLC for compassionate and experienced legal counsel after a loved one has been abused, neglected, or knowingly humiliated while staying in a long-term care facility. Our Baltimore nursing home abuse attorneys are backed by 50+ years of combined legal experience, a track record of successful case results, and a long list of appreciative client testimonials. Discover what our team can do for you by contacting us today and setting up a free consultation.