In February, employees at a nursing home in Ohio filmed themselves coaching seniors in their care to sing the hook to a gangster rap song about cocaine, while placing a banner on a female resident's chest that read, “Got these hoes trained.”
"I'm in love with the coco!" the seniors sang, echoing a video by O.T. Genasis which depicts the rapper working his way through mounds of cocaine while belting the hook.
The video was one of 35 embarrassing and dehumanizing -- and sometimes illegal -- acts filmed at nursing homes and shared across social media, an investigation by ProPublica found. The investigation looked at cases since 2012, and many of the employees posted to Snapchat, an app that leaves no permanent record of media shared among users.
Some of the videos are mortifying: In a February 2014 video from Prestige Post-Acute and Rehab Center in Centralia, Washington, an employee filmed a senior sitting on a portable toilet, laughing and singing, then shared it on Snapchat.
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Others are heartbreaking: In March 2014, at Rosewood Care Center in St. Charles, Illinois, employees filmed a video of themselves laughing while a caretaker lightly slapped the face of a 97-year-old dementia patient with a nylon strap as the woman cried: "Don't! Don't!"
In most cases, ProPublica reported, the nursing homes did not find out about their own employees abusing patients, and the videos and photos were only brought to their attention by other staffers or people who saw the videos and reported the senders. That's especially the case with Snapchat, where images can be shared with small groups of friends and there is no permanent URL to send to authorities.
There have been no consequences for the nursing homes where the abuse took place, or the owners of those homes. The Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services, a federal agency that has jurisdiction over those cases, has reportedly not penalized nursing homes for posting inappropriate content to social media.
Noting the small number of cases found, ProPublica said it's likely most incidents have gone unreported. More nursing home employees have been caught in recent years likely because of the rise of social media and the temptation to post the content on social networks.
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Joe Small's great-grandmother was victimized in October 2012, when employees at St. Ann’s Home in Rochester, New York, posted a video on Facebook of someone tugging the senior's hair, while off-camera staffers insulted her and prompted her to work.
“The boss lady said that if you don’t wash the dishes, she will slap the black off you … and she called you a bitch,” one employee told the elderly woman.
Ericha Brown, the aide who posted the video on Facebook, captioned it, "I miss these mornings," according to ProPublica. Brown was arrested and convicted in one of the few cases involving legal consequences for nursing home aides who have abused their patients.
“It was very distressing,” Small told ProPublica. “We are all going to get old one day and need assistance to help us in our day-to-day activities, and this is the way you have to be treated when you go into these establishments?”