Four nursing home aides arrested for taking 'undignified' photos, videos of residents

Four former nursing home aides were arrested and charged Tuesday with taking photos and videos of residents in “undignified” situations, according to New York authorities.

Mathew Reynolds, 21, and Angel Rood, 28, were employed as aides at Pontiac Nursing Home in Oswego, NY, when they allegedly used an iPhone to take “demeaning” photographs of a resident. The photos included several pictures that showed Reynolds and Rood lying in a bed with a resident and touching them in a “taunting and abusive manner,” state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Friday.

Reynolds and Rood were charged with endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person in the first degree, as well as two counts of willful violation of the public health law. They were both fired when the incident was discovered, John Ognibene, administrator at Pontiac, told McKnight's.

“The staff at the Pontiac Nursing Home is educated in resident rights during orientation at the time of hire. This is also repeated during an annual inservice. This includes review of our policies discussing the specific restrictions on the use of cell phones, photographing residents and social media,” Ognibene said. “Where we work is home to our dear residents. We want to create a warm, safe environment that is respectful of their dignity and privacy. Any violation of our policies and the implementation of them is unacceptable.”

In a separate incident at a nearby facility, two other aides, Austin Powell, 24, and Brittany Bolster, 21, were charged for filming a resident in 2014.

Powell allegedly took a video on his cell phone depicting him repeatedly teasing a resident at St. Luke Health Services in Oswego and touching her nose until she became agitated. He was fired in February 2015, according to a statement from St. Luke Administrator and CEO Terrence Gorman. Bolster, who was seen in the video but did not report the activity to facility supervisors, was fired later that year, Gorman said.

Powell and Bolster face the same charges as Reynolds and Rood.

Both facilities had “strict policies forbidding the use of cell phones by staffers and the creation of either still or video images of nursing home residents,” according to state authorities.

“To help ensure that this remains an isolated incident, we are also taking steps with all of our current staff that  include a vigorous review of our existing policies, as well as additional in-service  training related to a resident's right to safety and privacy,” Gorman said.

All four were released on their own recognizance, and are set for court appearances on Oct. 19.

Schneiderman's announcement of the arrests follows a recent plan from federal regulators to crack down on nursing homes' social media abuse policies.