If you have an elderly grandfather living in a nearby nursing home in New Mexico, you probably would not expect to find a picture of your grandfather online, and you certainly would not want to discover a picture of your loved one being humiliated by the staff of the nursing home. Yet in recent years, some people have found images of their senior loved ones being photographed in embarrassing situations by nursing home employees. It is a problem that is increasingly being covered in national news, and people should be aware of it.
The Washington Post reported in 2015 that staff members of nursing homes across the United States have been photographing senior residents in dehumanizing and embarrassing positions. In some of these instances, workers will take pictures of seniors while partially undressed or on the toilet. In other cases, workers may coach an elderly person to do something humiliating, like use profane language or say something obscene, and capture it on video. Since many of these seniors are mentally impaired, they often do not realize what they are doing.
There are any number of laws that are violated when seniors are photographed or recorded in a malicious fashion, including laws that have to do with elder abuse, invasion of privacy, and health violations. Some laws may be violated according to the specific nature of the photography. According to the Washington Post piece, one nursing home worker took a picture of the exposed backside of a senior. The worker was then charged with voyeurism.
Unfortunately, it is not often easy to reveal cases of denigrating photography. Many seniors who have been photographed in a humiliating fashion suffer from dementia and will not even realize that they have been victimized. In addition, some pictures will not be posted for the general public to see. Instead, they are shown only to a tight circle of friends. In such cases, it is up to a member of the circle to blow the whistle on the distribution of abusive pictures.
Because social media is a relatively recent phenomenon, it is only in the past few years that the dissemination of pictures of abused seniors has been considered a major problem. If you have a senior in a nursing home, ask about the nursing home’s policy on photography in the facility. And if you do discover your senior loved one has been victimized, consult an attorney and learn about the state and federal laws that have been violated in your loved one’s particular case.
Be aware that while this article offers information on nursing home abuse, it does not convey any legal advice to readers.