WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is asking the Justice Department to weigh in on the newly emerging problem of the exploitation of nursing home residents on social media. In a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Grassley noted that in multiple cases around the country, nursing home workers have been caught taking photos and videos of residents in vulnerable positions and posting them on social media outlets such as Snapchat.
“The mocking posts are meant for the workers’ amusement,” Grassley said. “The posts are degrading and horrifying. The residents are frail and incapable of fighting back against the abusive treatment. The Justice Department is the nation’s top law enforcement agency. Its involvement in fighting a newly emerging crime is critical to prevention, prosecution and holding perpetrators accountable.”
Grassley pointed out that much nursing home care in the United States is paid for through Medicaid, a federal-state program. The nursing home inspection process also is a federal-state program. In accepting public money, nursing homes must adhere to state and federal health and safety standards.
Grassley asked the U.S. attorney general what the Justice Department is doing to fight social media exploitation in nursing homes, including details about the number of cases the Justice Department might be engaged in around the country in this area.
Earlier, Grassley asked the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for an updated account of its work on elder abuse, including social media exploitation. HHS is responsible for enforcing federal nursing home standards. The inspector general’s office reports that a response is in the works.
Grassley has a long record of nursing home safety oversight, including his work as then-chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
Grassley’s letter to the Justice Department is available here.