We live in a connected world. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other platforms provide us with an outlet to vent and a community to immerse in on a daily basis. Unfortunately, social media also brings with it the probability of occasional arguments and cyber-bullying even within nursing home facilities.
Seniors, although they grew up in a world without the convenience of the Internet, have also joined in the digital community and thus are subjected to the same problems. In 2013, 43% of seniors over 65 used some kind of social networking site. The question is, how does this discord and bullying affect the senior, who is often medically fragile already. What can be done to curb the problem and make those bullies accountable?
Is Cyber-Bullying A Problem In Nursing Homes?
Seniors who live in residential facilities with Internet service are likely to utilize the social media available to them. In fact, seniors often see Facebook and other social platforms as a way to stay connected with friends when they cannot travel to see them in person.
Seniors are no less likely to become victims (and sometimes perpetrators) of cyber-bullying. It is estimated that 18% of adult bullying occurs on social media sites. As a result, nursing homes should ensure that the online world is emotionally safe and positive. In addition, suspects of cyber-bullying who attack vulnerable seniors should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law so that others do not use social media as a form of abuse.
Snapchat Abuse Of Senior Residents
In Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, SweetGrass Court Assisted Living is one of many facilities around the region that care for seniors who cannot care for themselves at home anymore. They have access to the Internet, and many seniors spend hours daily on social apps, whether on a cell phone or desktop computer.
Recently, two employees at SweetGrass were charged with posting a video on the popular app Snapchat of them verbally abusing residents who had Alzheimer’s. Perhaps they thought they would get away with the abuse because the seniors in question were mentally frail and wouldn’t be able to testify to the abuse. They were wrong. The families of two of the seniors who were victims have raised lawsuits against SweetGrass and the employees who participated in the abuse.
Charges Of Wrongful Death And Fraud
The abuse suspects in the SweetGrass case were charged with wrongful death after one of the victims, Betty Dick, died of sepsis from a perforated gastric ulcer. The victim’s family claimed that the ulcer was an immediate consequence of the anxiety and emotional distress caused by the verbal abuse. The patient had Alzheimer’s and claimed not to remember the event, but clearly, something stressful caused the ulcer, proving that physical symptoms can manifest even when there is no obvious recollection of abuse.
The second lawsuit was against the facility itself and pursued a claim that SweetGrass had committed fraud and was negligent in the case of another senior victim. The charges of fraud were justified as a consequence of the facility administrator promising the victim’s family that she would be properly taken care of there. Again, the victim does not remember the abuse, and she has also been moved to another facility.
Are Charges of Bullying Viable If The Victim Doesn’t Remember It?
Some might question the legitimacy of a lawsuit like the SweetGrass since, the victims suffered from a form of dementia and didn’t remember the abuse occurring on Snapchat. If the victim doesn’t remember the event, is there truly a crime since there can no mental anguish if there is no memory.
However, there have been cases over the years where victims suffer physical effects from events that they have repressed in the recesses of their mind. Abuse recalled under hypnosis has been the basis of charges against many criminals who would have gotten away with their crimes had there not been some sudden catharsis. Just because the seniors in these lawsuits claim not to remember the abuse, they have obviously suffered physical effects as a result. It is not a huge jump to link the abuse to the physical illness, especially as seniors are already medically fragile.