Two nursing home care workers at Abington Nursing Home in Illinois have been fired after they posted a disturbing video of them allegedly harassing a 91-year-old woman with dementia. The video shows one of the workers waving a hospital gown in front of the elderly woman, a resident of the Abington Nursing Home in Glenview, Illinois. She flails her arms around, clearly in distress, as if trying to escape the hospital gown. The other worker allegedly filmed the encounter. The workers knew the woman hated hospital gowns and allegedly exploited this knowledge to humiliate her, posting the video on Snapchat. Following this psychological abuse, the elderly woman began having nightmares and started requiring an aide to stay with her at night. Her family moved her to another nursing home, which proved to be a challenging transition for her.
When the nursing home found out about the incident, they originally suspended the two Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) for only six days, according to NBC Chicago. But after the pair were charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, the nursing home finally terminated them.
Unless the nursing home was confident that they could complete an investigation in six days, the fact that the CNAs were only suspended for six days does not align with the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, which prohibits abuse and neglect and reads:
When an investigation of a report of suspected abuse of a recipient indicates, based upon credible evidence, that an employee of a long term care facility is the perpetrator of the abuse, that employee shall immediately be barred from any further contact with residents of the facility, pending the outcome of any further investigation, prosecution or disciplinary action against the employee.
The workers’ alleged actions amount to psychological abuse. Furthermore, forcing a resident to wear a hospital gown without an appropriate medical justification is also a violation of the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act, which reads:
A resident shall be permitted to retain and use or wear his personal property in his immediate living quarters, unless deemed medically inappropriate by a physician and so documented in the resident’s clinical record. If clothing is provided to the resident by the facility, it shall be of a proper fit.
New York has similar laws in place to protect elderly people from elder abuse.
The disturbing story, which has been picked up by national news outlets like The Washington Post, brings attention to abuses and privacy violations going on behind the closed doors of many nursing homes. In this case, not only was the woman emotionally abused, but her privacy was violated when the workers posted a video of her on Snapchat without her consent. Patient privacy is protected under HIPAA, and this alleged incident was a HIPAA violation. So what is HIPAA? HIPAA helps ensure that your health information is protected, whether it be medical records, conversations with your doctor or other healthcare providers, insurance information, or billing information. Health plans and most healthcare providers—including nursing homes— must follow HIPAA
The New York State Department of Health also outlines the rights of nursing home residents, which include:
- The right to dignity, respect, and a comfortable living environment
- The right to be free from abuse (verbal, sexual, mental, and physical abuse)
- The right to privacy in communications, accommodations, personal care, medical treatment, and visits
With the rise of social media, it has become socially acceptable to post information about others on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. But that doesn’t make it okay, especially in a healthcare setting, where HIPAA is supposed to protect you and your health information.
If you or a loved one has been abused in a nursing home, don’t be afraid to come forward. Your rights have been violated and you have a voice. Call (877) 238-4175 to speak to an attorney today.