When a family member requires more care then their relatives can provide, many families consider a nursing home. They are an amazing way to ensure that your loved one is being cared for and getting the treatment and care they deserve.

Many of these elders are well-cared for but sadly some are the victims of abuse. Abuse continues to be more prevalent than most people wish to believe and over 3/4th of the cases of nursing home abuse are perpetrated by caregivers.

Abusive treatment is nothing new at nursing homes. Workers have been accused of sexual harassment, improper treatment or sedation, neglecting to clean or rotate as need or even dropping patients.

And now enters the newest form of elder abuse: Social media. It is redefining the way we interpret privacy, free speech and employee rights. While it can be a fun and enjoyable way of sharing photos, videos and memories with others, social media is now one of the biggest dangers to nursing home residents.

Since 2012, at least 65 instances have been reported nationwide in which workers at nursing homes have shared inappropriate photos or videos of residents being bathed, fully or partially naked, and some even deceased. At least 16 of these cases involved Snapchat, a social media service in which photos appear only for a few seconds and disappear without record.

Take for example an Illinois nursing home being sued after videos emerged on social media of caregivers taunting an elderly woman. The two staff completely exploited this elderly woman’s privacy and dignity. The nursing home is also being accused of failing to properly implement their abuse prevention policy. The hope from this lawsuit is to help prevent abuse like this happening to other individuals all across the state.  What kind of scumbag would taunt an elderly patient they are supposed to be caring for?

The numerous incidents illustrate the emerging threat that social media poses to patient privacy as well as the potential for capturing transgressions that might have otherwise gone unrecorded.

Illinois law requires certain professionals, including those in the medical field and adult care, to make reports of suspected abuse of adults age 60 or older who are unable, due to dysfunction, to report for themselves. Yet, the reported nursing homes rarely found these controversial media postings themselves. Most came from concerned members of the community whom saw the posts, posted privately or publicly.

The irresponsible use of social media has created a number of potential ethical and legal challenges. Federal agencies are now asking state officials to help enforce rules that prohibit nursing home staff from taking demeaning photos and videos of residents.

Making the decision to put a loved one in the care of others in a nursing home is an emotional and stressful situation for many families. Factoring in the risk of social media abuse should not have to be one of the concerns. If this has happened to someone you love, please call us at (312) 346-5320 for a free consultation with a lawyer to discuss what options you may have.