Assisted living workers fired after photo of resident on toilet posted to social media

Published: Sep. 30, 2015 at 2:20 AM EDT|Updated: Nov. 2, 2015 at 2:39 AM EST
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NEWTON, NC (WBTV) - Executives of Carillon Assisted Living of Newton say three workers have been fired after an employee took a photo of a resident who was using the toilet. That employee then posted the photo to her social media account, Snapchat.

Keith Ensey, the Regional Director of Operations for Carillon Assisted Living, said he completed the investigation on Thursday, and submitted the required 5-day report to the N.C Healthcare Registry.

"We substantiated abuse for the three team members - the person taking the picture and the two team members seen in the picture," Ensey told WBTV in a telephone interview. "They were fired for breaking multiple company policies involving - the cell phone policy, social media policy, violation of resident's rights, and also violation of privacy policies.

Ensey say the three females employees worked as personal care assistants. They were no licensed.

He said the person who took the picture worked at Carillon in Newton for a couple of months. Two employees were seen in the photograph with the resident - one was with the facility for two years, and the other was there for just over four months.

Ensey said the two workers seen in the photograph were fired for "failure to report that act or failure to to try and stop that act - taking the picture - also makes them just as guilty."

Company executives said they believe they've acted quickly and appropriately to get to the bottom of the incident. They don't expect to face any fines or disciplinary actions from the state.

Ensey said his investigation has not uncovered any other similar incidents at the assisted living facility.

He said the company notified the local Department of Social Services office in Catawba County, filed a report with the N.C Healthcare Registry, held a meeting with all employees to review social media policies, notified families of all 62 residents of the facility, and met with the family of the woman who was photographed and mocked.

"The family of course they were concerned. They were upset. They were appalled as we all were and they wanted answers. They wanted to know how this could happen," he said. "And we tried to assure them as best as we could that we've taken all the measures that we know that are necessary to prevent this from happening again. It's unclear at this point whether or not they're going to move her out."

According to Ensey, the female resident has lived at Carillon Assisted Living in Newton for about two years. The facility has two units: a secured unit for people with Alzheimer's, and a regular non secure assisted living side.

He said the woman in the photograph lived in the secure wing because she has Alzheimer's disease.

"It's just such an appalling act. And such a defenseless resident," Ensey said. "I mean the families trust their loved ones with us to care for, and the violation of that trust - just the picture in itself that it was seen by so many people - posted to social media of a defenseless person. So for that fact we did substantiate abuse of the resident's rights and abuse of the resident."

Newton Police said they're still investigating to see if any laws were broken. Investigators say they expect to wrap up their investigation soon.

The photo first came to light Tuesday when the employee posted it to her Snapchat account.

An outraged viewer contacted WBTV when she saw the picture.

WBTV called Carillon Assisted Living and executives said the workers were immediately suspended pending an investigation. The company said they immediately started an internal investigation.

"You're talking about people's dignity," said Ken Kirkham, Chief Operating Officer of Carillon. "I mean this was completely unauthorized. It's an indignant photo and that just can't be tolerated. We have zero tolerance for that."

Kirkham told WBTV they believe the photo was taken on Tuesday during the first shift.

"As soon as we became aware of the event today we conducted an immediate investigation. We identified three team members involved in the incident," he said. "All three were immediately suspended and escorted off the property."

Kirkham said managers contacted the resident's family "because the preservation of the dignity of all of our residents is one of the most important things about  Carillon and what we stand for."

The facility acknowledges the employees violated confidentiality rules and the resident's privacy.

The remaining question is did they commit any crimes when they took the picture of the elderly person, and posted it online.

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