A controversial issue recently surfaced through social media when an Austin, Texas certified nursing assistant posted three disturbing photos on Snapchat. One picture showed an elderly female resident in the Windsor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center with what was apparently fecal matter on her hand. Two more photos displayed an unidentified individual tickling the woman’s nose so her soiled hand was automatically raised to her face.
This distasteful story was picked up by KXAN Austin television. They located the male nursing assistant who posted the online photographs. The poster declined to be interviewed, but his family members appeared on camera in his defense. Their faces were blurred for privacy, however, they did issue an apology for how the nursing assistant handled this matter.
KXAN reporters approached this story from two viewpoints. One was the question of ethics where a state-certified professional nursing assistant chose to publicly display the unsightly images on a public forum rather than using formal channels available through the nursing home administration as well as the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS). The DADS maintains its own private tip line for reporting these types of alleged nursing home abuse incidents.
KXAN also raised the issue of the alleged victim’s right to privacy, which appears violated by having her image publicly displayed against her will. They cited the privacy rights of the woman as well as her extended family, noting they should be protected from involuntary social media sharing regardless if the posting was made with apparently good intentions of disclosing an abuse incident.
Management staff at the Windsor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center took the matter seriously. They would not comment on specifics of this case, again referring to individual privacy concerns, but responded with a statement that an internal investigation was underway. The matter had also been reported to the police who were looking into whether criminal offenses had been committed.
If so, there may be two separate violations. One would be the nursing home abuse where a resident was assaulted by forcing feces to her face. The other would be a breach of privacy by way of posting unauthorized and offensive images. Both are Class “A” Misdemeanor offenses under the Texas Penal Code.
The Snapchat posting generated fiery online exchanges regarding the responsibility to report nursing home abuse compared to the right of victims’ privacy. One comment read, “imagine if that was your parent.”
The KXAN television article also reported the Windsor Center being cited for repeated resident safety infractions, indicating that abuse may be ongoing in this particular facility. The TV piece referred viewers to a DADS website that scores all nursing home facilities throughout the state and makes all reports including their outcomes available to the public. Read more on this incident.