ROWAN COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A picture shared more than one thousand times on social media, along with a description that accuses a caregiver of the horrible treatment of an elderly man, has sparked outrage.
The picture shows a caregiver at what is described as a car wash in Rockwell. An elderly man is bending down and appears to be wiping the rims of the car while the caregiver watches.
"She pushes him around almost making him fall, jerks him around," the caption reads. "She was forcing him to clean her rims though he could barely bend down."
The caregiver, Brittany Earnhardt, told WBTV that the post is not accurate.
"I'm kind of in shock with this," Earnhardt said. "I've been doing this kind of work for 16 years and nothing like this has ever happened. I've been with this particular patient for more than two years, I love him like I would my own family member. I try to treat him like I want to be treated, get him out and doing things."
Earnhardt says she and the man were cleaning the car together after he accidentally spilled a drink. The man began cleaning the rims on his own, Earnhardt said.
"For one, this person, you cannot force him to do anything, he's going to do on his own will, he's going to do what he wants to do," Earnhardt said.
As far as the allegations that she has been seen handling the man in a rough manner, Earnhardt says that isn't true.
"It hurt my heart," Earnhardt said. "I care for him. I don't want people thinking I'm hurting him because I care for him and his family. It hurt my heart. If somebody was thinking something, why not come and ask some questions or whatever they need to find out what's really going on?"
The post was widely shared and thousands of people left comments demanding to learn the identity of the caregiver, the company she worked for, and if she could face criminal charges.
The original poster also posted Earnhardt's name and license tag number.
WBTV discovered that the caregiver works for TenderHearted Home Care. Workers there say the description of the picture is wildly inaccurate and describe the caregiver as "awesome." They say she has worked with the man for more than two years.
Renee Gray, owner of Tenderhearted, gave the following statement to WBTV:
There are always 2 sides to a story and they often make all the difference.
The caregiver in the photo, Brittany, has been a loyal, trusted, professional caregiver with TenderHearted for the past 2.5 years. She has received many compliments on her creativity with clients, her attention to detail and what "makes that difference" with each one individually. She works well with the family to see how to best get her clients to move towards independence instead of just "sitting" with them. She has studied and acquired special certifications in dementia care, caregiver core training and Parkinson's care. The family of this client absolutely loves her and how she has made a difference in the life of their family member because of her attention to what motivates and drives this client to work towards a healthy outcome. They work together to bring about the quality of life that is desired.
Even though the family has no complaints in regards to the quality care that Brittany provides, as owner of TenderHearted Home Care, I will be filing an allegation report with the NC Health Care Personnel Registry, as required by NC General Statute 131E-256(g).
We take abuse and neglect very seriously and do intensive screening, including background checks, not just on hire, but monthly as well. We do initial drug screening as well as random drug testing. We go above and beyond state requirements to assure that we have the best care-professionals for our clients. We maintain ongoing supervision of our care-pros by a licensed RN and are just a phone call away for any client/family concerns and respond immediately.
The sister of the man who is portrayed in the photograph disputes the description, and describes the caregiver as "wonderful and compassionate."
The caregiver has been working with the man for about two years, according to the sister. The man has been disabled for four years.
"This wonderful compassionate caregiver has provided his care for more than two years," the woman told WBTV in a phone interview. "She is extremely intuitive, she has been absolutely a blessing to our family for all the care and wonderful things she's done for my brother."
The sister said that the caregiver takes her brother to the senior center daily and frequently takes him out to eat and to other activities.
"If it weren't for this particular caregiver I don't know that he wouldn't be wheelchair bound at this point," the sister added.
The sister said that the "false allegations" of the Facebook post have hurt her family.
"Just the false allegation that somebody observed something that has no medical knowledge," the sister said. "My brothers disabilities are being managed. I don't think someone observing him in a few seconds and taking a photograph can accurately describe anything about him."
"When you set the bar for what you expect in a caregiver, she's above that bar," said Traci Collins of TenderHearted. "If it hadn't been for her in the last couple of year, he may not be out there walking."
The post was originally made to a Rowan County Online Yard Sale Facebook page, but removed once the administrator of the page was notified of the contents. By then, it had already been shared more than one thousand times.
"You don't always know the whole story, you really don't, and I just wish people would find the whole story before they start posting," Collins added.
Many in the community continued to show support for the original post and said that anytime elder abuse was suspected, it should be reported.
"If you suspect a disabled adult is being mistreated or abused, it is your responsibility to call Rowan County Department of Social Services (DSS) and report your concerns immediately," states the Rowan County web page dealing with the topic. "DSS' Adult Protective Services (APS) staff will determine what actions are needed to ensure protection. APS professionals cannot protect our community's disabled unless you take the time to call."