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The Disturbing Rise in Nursing Home Staff Harassment Against Residents

Nursing home harassment rates are on the rise as staff disrespect elders and share inappropriate photos on social media.

Vulnerable nursing home residents deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. Although everyone has a right to humane treatment, this right is often violated in nursing homes.

Sadly, incidents of harassment, abuse, and neglect in nursing homes have been on the rise recently. A shocking number of these cases involve sexual abuse and the sharing of explicit, private photos of nursing home residents.

Nursing home residents and their loved ones should be aware of their legal rights so that they can take immediate action against any form of elder abuse.

What Is Harassment in Nursing Homes?

Nursing home harassment occurs when staff or other residents engage in offensive behavior that is humiliating, embarrassing or demeaning to the victim. This could mean anything from emotional manipulation to sexual abuse.

Harassment in nursing homes can take many different forms. Some of the most common types of nursing home harassment include sexual harassment, verbal harassment, and physical harassment.

Sometimes, harassment doesn’t look obvious. For example, harassment can occur when nursing homes isolate residents from others, take resident’s property, medicate residents with drugs that are not on their care plan, or open their mail without consent. Every form of harassment violates the rights of our elders.

Nursing home residents have several rights, including:

  • A right to sue the home
  • A right to have visitors at any time
  • A right to have their property safeguarded
  • A right to be treated with dignity and respect
  • A right to voice their concerns about problems

When these rights are breached, we have to take action. Mandatory reporting laws require that anyone who has regular contact with vulnerable elders must report incidents of abuse, whether directly observed or suspected.

The Rise of Sharing Private Photos

An emerging type of elder mistreatment involves posting explicit photos of nursing home residents to social media.

A 2015 ProPublica article reported that it identified 35 different cases since 2012 of nursing home staff sharing photos of residents. Of these cases, 16 of them involved sharing images to Snapchat.

For example, a licensed nurse at a Pennsylvania nursing home was recently charged with 30 crimes after taking private photos of at least 17 elderly residents and sending them to a former co-worker. Some of the photos depict residents in the nude and in need of immediate care.

Several other nursing home workers have been posted dehumanizing photos and videos of residents using the toilet, showering, or walking around naked. Some of these videos show elders being physically and verbally harassed as workers slap them and taunt them with insults.

These incidents violate the privacy and trust of nursing home residents. Whether coupled with physical abuse or not, taking photos and videos of nursing home residents without their consent is a form of elder mistreatment and depicts a disturbing lack of respect for human life.

In these incidents, nursing homes are rarely the ones to discover the photos. Rather the cases, are being reported by social media members or others who have seen the photos and contacted authorities themselves. Nursing homes must develop policies that prevent and curb these incidents.

Protecting the Dignity of the Elderly

Incidents in which nursing home residents are disrespected and mistreated are shocking and saddening. All too often, families think they’re placing a loved one in a safe and respectful environment that turns out to be hostile and dangerous.

Most victims of harassment have some kind of physical or mental impairment. Sadly, this means that victims have a hard time speaking up or taking action against abuse. Many cases of elder abuse go unreported.

Elder abuse, neglect, and harassment can be subtle and difficult to spot. Family members should take some time to learn about the signs of elder abuse and neglect so they can keep an eye out for problems. Whether or not you have proof that harassment is occurring, report it right away.

If your loved one has been the victim of nursing home harassment, abuse or neglect in a nursing home, you may have a legal case against the facility. People must be held accountable for violating the rights of our vulnerable elders. Contact the Nursing Home Abuse Center for a free legal case review.

Nursing Home Abuse Support Team

The Nursing Home Abuse Center (NHAC) was founded to bring justice to those affected by nursing home and elder abuse. Our mission is to educate and empower victims of abuse and their families to take a stand against this unlawful mistreatment. We work to return dignity back to those who have been broken down by nursing home abuse and neglect.

  1. Bradbury, S. (2019, May 03). Police charge former Kane McKeesport nurse with taking nude photos of elderly patients. Retrieved from
  2. Brown, C., & Brown, C. (2019, January 01). Ex-Fairhaven nursing home worker charged with posting inappropriate videos of residents. Retrieved from
  3. Fontinelle, A. (2019, May 12). Things Nursing Homes Are Not Allowed to Do. Retrieved from
  4. Ornstein, C. (2019, March 09). Nursing Home Workers Share Explicit Photos of Residents on Snapchat. Retrieved from
  5. Ibrahim, J., Smith, D., & Bugeja, L. (2019, March 15). It's hard to think about, but frail older women in nursing homes get sexually abused too. Retrieved from