The feds are cracking down on healthcare workers posting degrading pictures of patients online. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are warning nursing home workers: stop exploiting the elderly by taking pictures and video of vulnerable patients and posting them on social media.
“It's really disgusting just to think this even happens in nursing homes,” says local patient advocate, Fernando Gutierrez with Ethics 4 Healthcare.
Gutierrez says sadly, not only is nursing home abuse happening, the growing trend is to share it on social media.
Two nursing home workers were recently arrested for recording a half-naked 84-year-old woman and laughing as they were supposed to be helping her in the bathroom, then posting it on Snapchat.
Two nurses aides were busted humiliating patients in Snapchat videos: asking an elderly woman about her sex life and marijuana as she sits on the toilet, yelling in a sleeping patient's ear, and labeling another "Chucky's Bride."
Another nursing home worker kicks the wheelchair of a man with dementia calling out for his deceased wife and captioning her Snapchat video "Jerk."
“It's sick to the point of being disgusting - a healthcare worker would stoop so low as to take advantage of the most vulnerable,” says Gutierrez.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are calling on states to check that nursing homes have a policy and train employee about cell phone use forbidding staff from taking demeaning pictures of patients, investigating complaints quickly, and reporting violations for potential discipline.
“It is disgusting, and I hope they never do that with my mom,” says Silas Davidiuk, who relies on Highland Pines nursing home staff in Clearwater to care for his 96-year-old mom.
“There should be a law against them using a cell phone,” says Davidiuk.
Staff at Highland Pines tells 10News tWTSP hat employees aren't allowed to use their smartphone anywhere in the patient care area for any reason. The first violation is a warning, the next time they're fired.
“Ask the facility if there's a policy that prohibits that type of behavior. How can they protect my loved one who cannot protect themselves,” says Gutierrez.
At least 35 similar case have been investigated since 2012, but investigators believe there are more cases that have just never been reported.
The latest nursing home workers were caught nearly 3 month after they posted vidoes on snapchat, when a fellow employee reported the posts to state investigators.
In Florida, the Agency for Health Care Administration investigates nursing home abuse allegations.
AHCA consumer complaint line - (888) 419-3456
Florida Abuse Hotline - (800) 96-ABUSE (800-962-2873)
The Florida Center for Cybersecurity at USF has these tips for protecting your loved one in a nursing home:
- Ask the nursing home about its policies for cell phone use during work and the use of social media by employees.
- Ask about the type of training employees receive related to social media and the consequences of violating policies.
- Visit your loved one regularly, and observe employees while you visit. Do they have their cell phones with them in easy reach?
- Do your research. Make sure the nursing facility is properly licensed. Also, inspection ratings are available here: http://www.floridahealthfinder.gov/LandingPages/NursingHomeGuide.aspx
- Review Florida rights for nursing home residents: http://ombudsman.myflorida.com/ResidentsRights.php