Channel 2 Investigates

This form of elder abuse is growing at an alarming rate

ATLANTA — It’s one of the most difficult decisions a family can make -- whether to put an aging loved one in a nursing home.

You look for a place you trust, but we’ve learned a growing number of nurses and nursing home staff are breaking that trust in a shocking way.

Channel 2’s Justin Gray reports this form of elder abuse is becoming more common with the rise of social media and apps like Snapchat.

It’s a violation of not just privacy, but dignity, too. Nursing home residents are being mocked, ridiculed and exploited by the people paid to care for them.

“It makes me sick. I mean, really, what if this was your mom? What if this was your grandma? Mindy Mench said.

Mench told Channel 2 putting her husband’s grandmother Janet Hartranft in a nursing home was last resort. Hartranft was suffering from dementia after multiple strokes.

“She came to stay with us, and I cared for her as long as I could,” Mench said.

According to Mench, the nursing home they carefully chose failed them.

“I kept asking her, ‘Why did you do this? Why would you do this? How would you feel if someone did this to you?’” Mench said.

This wasn’t an isolated incident.

Two nurse aides from Massachusetts were charged after they allegedly posted pictures of Jay Boskey’s mother with the caption, “Chuckie’s Bride.”

Senator Chuck Grassley calls it abuse. He says it’s happened dozens of times at nursing homes across the county.

Grassley sent a letter to the Justice Department demanding a nationwide investigation.

“You’re there because you can’t entirely take care of yourself. Then to have some people abuse these elderly people is a shame. We have to put a stop to it,” Grassley said.

Grassley is also reaching out to Medicare and Medicaid to see if more can be done in nursing home inspections.

“It’s just taking advantage of people in a way that’s inhumane,” he said.

Mench said she didn’t know what Snapchat was until finding out how it was used to humiliate her grandmother.

“It just makes me sick. I don’t understand,” she said.

A Snapchat spokesperson told Channel 2 that the incidents violate both their community guidelines and terms of service, and the app has a tool for Snapchatters to report violations.

CMS, the government agency that regulates nursing homes, said there is a proposed rulemaking published on the federal register. It specifically singles out social media and mobile device abuse in the new rules that would govern nursing homes.

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