By Esther Bower
VIERA, Fla. - A memory care facility in Florida said it was "shocked and horrified" after two of its caregivers were arrested on charges of elder abuse after they allegedly tormented a patient with dementia and recorded it.
Brevard County sheriff's deputies arrested two women last week and allege they live-streamed their encounter with an elderly patient on SnapChat.
"Abusing someone, an elderly person, or abusing anyone is disgusting enough, but to make matters even worse, they live-streamed the abuse," said Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey during a news conference about the case.
Brevard County deputies said the evidence is a Snapchat recording of two caregivers allegedly tormenting a senior with memory and behavioral concerns.
Jada Harris, 18, was charged with video voyeurism, abuse and neglect of an elderly or disabled adult, and interception or disclosure of wired communications. A second woman, Shy'Tiona Bishop, 20, was charged with video voyeurism and abuse and neglect of an elderly or disabled adult.
In a statement shared with FOX 35, Market Street Memory Care said both employees have been terminated and that it was "shocked and horrified to learn of this incident of elder abuse at the hands of two individuals who were trusted to care for a vulnerable resident."
The facility said it was working with the victim's family.
Tips to keep in mind when selecting a care facility
Experts said the allegations in this case highlight that elder abuse is more common than people think. Those experts also advice on what families should keep in mind when touring facilities.
"Unfortunately, over the past few years – really since COVID – it seems like over the past three years, the incidents we are seeing and hearing about have escalated," said Cheryl Ann Cronin, who serves as the lead case manager for the Brevard Alzheimer’s Foundation, an organization committed to advocating and empowering families when a loved one has dementia.
The World Health Organization said it is tracking an 80% increase in elder abuse incidents.
"We do see these abuse cases from time to time," said Geoff Moore, a nursing home trial lawyer for Maher Law Firm.
He said the first step when looking for care is to visit Florida Health Finder, an online portal where people can find current complaints and investigations at medical facilities across the state.
"What this does is it lets you see, is this a facility that has very few complaints or does it have a lot of complaints," Moore added.
When touring a facility, do not be sold right away by how things look.
"When you tour the facility, some of these can look like the Taj Mahal," he said. Instead, take note of how other patients look and ask detailed questions of the head nurse and lead administrator about the facility.
"Trust your gut when you’re doing that," Moore said. "If you get a good feel for them, the research checks out, that’s important. Do that at least, I’d say three times."
In the alleged case above, the day after the video was recorded, another staff members at the facility noticed changes in the victim's behavior – that she was pacing, yelling, and screaming.
"Changes in behavior – sadness, crying, lack of appetite, personality changes, even statements," are changes to look out for, said Cronin, who heads Brevard Alzheimer’s Foundation.
If you or someone you know is experiencing elder abuse, you can call the 24/7 abuse hotline at: 1-800-96-ABUSE or file a report online.
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Deputies arrest caregivers, accused of elder abuse at Florida facility