Why is finding the right New York nursing home for your elderly parent, grandparent or other loved one so important? Because elder abuse comes in all forms.

Life in a nursing home or an assisted care facility is a huge adjustment for seniors. Many leave the homes that they have shared for many years with a dedicated spouse who has passed on. They leave behind the furniture they have come to love, trinkets they cherish and many other items that have defined them for years. Elder life can be lonely, isolating, and frightening under normal circumstances, but now there is a new threat facing elders who live in long term and assisted care facilities, and social media is at the center of it all.

Elder abuse via social media

Many people trust that placing their loved one in a long term health facility means will receive the best care possible. The last thing the family would imagine would be to sign on to Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook and find pictures of their loved one covered in feces, but that is what many families across the country are facing; and it is more prevalent than most people realize.

In a memo to state health departments, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services advises that every department should investigate all New York nursing homes to ensure there are policies in place to prohibit employees from photographing residents in a demeaning or compromising manner. Protecting dignity and respect should be of paramount priority. Additionally, the memo urged rapid investigations when complaints of this type of elder abuse occur, including reporting the abusive staff to state licensing agencies for possible discipline.

Why this is happening

One of the biggest issues that poorly-run New York nursing and assisted care facilities face is the ratio of staff to residents. Like most states, New York sets guidelines, rules and resident-to-staff ratios based on a series of specific metrics, which may include assessing how many minutes it takes to feed a resident, or the time it takes to get a resident out of bed, showered, dressed and prepared for their day. Often times, the persons who are involved in the direct care of residents will complain there is rarely enough staff to take care of the needs of their residents. However, under minimum state guidelines, the resident:staff ratio may still be considered safe and legal.

Although state regulations define what the minimal ratio should be, facilities always have the option of hiring more staff to accommodate their resident census. Unfortunately, too many choose to hire the bare minimum of staff required by law.

Key takeaway: When talking to an elder care professional about finding the right New York nursing home for your loved one, your first question should be about the hiring ratio.

Low staff morale

Other issues contributing to possible abuse of residents is low staff morale and a lack of appreciation among team members. In assisted care and nursing facilities, certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are the direct care providers. In an assisted care setting, they may take care of laundering the residents clothing or helping them dress or shower. In a nursing facility, CNAs are responsible for ensuring that incontinent residents are clean and dry, using Hoyer lifts and other equipment to lift and rotate non ambulatory residents.

Licensed nurses are responsible for medication passes, reports and overseeing the CNAs. Because CNAs attend training that extends from only six to nine weeks to receive a certificate, their training regarding ethics is not as comprehensive as a licensed nurse.

Key takeaway: The second question you may want to ask your elder law specialist is about the number of licensed nurses overseeing the CNAs on staff.

The facility is responsible – Hire an experienced lawyer for help

Every facility bears the responsibility of making sure their residents are responsible for proper care and treatment with dignity and respect. Members of the political arena are starting to sound the alarm on elder abuse via the internet, but each family must also do its due diligence. Talk to an experienced elder care attorney who has investigated facilities and will know about previous violations before placing your family member.

Elder abuse via the internet is fairly complicated, as there are not a lot of federal guidelines that pertain to this issue. If you discover that your loved one has become the victim of any kind of elder abuse, you have the option of retaining an elder law lawyer on their behalf.