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How Technology Is Helping To Fight Digital Elder Abuse

Elder abuse is known to the public in several forms. Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse occur most often in nursing homes, but they can also occur to the elderly who live at home. Financial abuse occurs when someone takes advantage of the trusting nature of an elderly person and drains their bank account. However, highlights a new form of abuse that has been uncovered since the rise of social media and, it is called digital abuse.

What Is Digital Elder Abuse?

Digital elder abuse is most commonly committed when employees of nursing facilities share compromising photos of elderly patients through social media. Some of these photos are posted directly to Snapchat and Instagram accounts, but most are sent as private messages across social media platforms.

Since 2012, there have been 47 documented instances of digital elder abuse, and advocates fear that many more incidents have gone unnoticed or unpunished. These photos range from a Rochester nursing home employee sharing pictures of a patient with his hands and feet covered in feces, to Green Bay nursing home employees swapping nude pictures of patients. The act is degrading and definitely a form of abuse, but the problem is that it is usually not illegal.

State Laws Cannot Keep Up

Most states do not have laws making it illegal for people to share degrading photos of the elderly on social media. While some cases have been successfully prosecuted using privacy or quality of care laws, many of these instances of public degradation are not covered by any laws on the books. This means that, for the most part, the people committing these acts are getting away with it.

State lawmakers throughout the country are working on new laws to protect the elderly in the digital age, but getting help for the elderly who do not understand the technology can be difficult. Social media platforms are becoming aware of the issue, and they are being asked to change their policies to help report these types of crimes. But as of now, most social media platforms only allow victims to report harmful posts. For an elderly person who has never heard of Snapchat and may be stricken with dementia, reporting these crimes directly is almost impossible.

Apps Emerging To Combat Elder Abuse

Education for both the elderly and their family members is key to stopping digital elderly abuse. That education is coming in the form of custom apps that are being developed throughout the country to help family members, witnesses, and even the elderly themselves report crimes.

The Georgia Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation app (GANE) is an interactive app that allows people to directly report crimes against the elderly to police, initiates a missing person’s report for an elderly person, and offers detailed information on the laws protecting the elderly. The app also allows law enforcement officials direct access to the requests being made to expedite the process of getting help for elderly victims.

In California, the 368+ app is named after the California penal code dealing with elderly abuse and offers many of the same features as the GANE app. With the app, people can get immediate information about elderly abuse laws and request help for any elderly person who may be in trouble.

Perhaps the biggest problem with digital elderly abuse apps is that they may not help the elderly directly. Family members will have to show their elderly loved ones how to use the apps, or the family can explain the app to their elderly loved one and use the app when a problem occurs.

As state lawmakers and social media platforms rush to alter laws and policies to help stop digital elder abuse, it is helpful to know that there are apps available that offer important information family members need when elderly abuse is taking place.

Author Bio:

Laurence Banville. Esq is the managing partner and face of Banville Law. Laurence is licensed to practice law in the state of New York. Originally from Ireland, Banville moved to the United States of America where he worked at law firms, refining his litigation and brief writing crafts. He is also the recipient of the Irish Legal 100 and the Top 40 Under 40 awards.


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Competent attorneys at Powers Law, P.C. provide strong representation for criminal cases, family law, commercial litigation and real estate cases.