Federal Regulators Seek to Stop Social Media Abuse of Nursing Home Residents

After an alarming report by the website ProPublica, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced plans to crack down on nursing home employees who take demeaning photographs and videos of residents and post them on social media websites.  The report documented 44 known incidents across the country since 2012 in which nursing home woSocial Mediarkers posted photos or videos of nursing home residents on social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.   Among the incidents documented by the report was a certified nurse assistant sharing pictures of a resident lying naked in bed covered in feces. Additionally, earlier this year, a 21-year-old nursing home CNA in Wisconsin recorded a video of a partially nude, 93-year-old Alzheimer’s patient playing tug-of-war with her clothes. At the time, the CNA “thought it was funny” according to her post on social media.  She is now facing criminal charges for the post.

As a result of the ProPublica report, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent out a memo to state regulators laying out guidelines that forbid employees from taking demeaning or humiliating photos and videos of residents.  The memo sets uniform standards for how such abuse should be written up by inspectors and the severity of sanctions that should be levied. In the past, there was great variability.

“Nursing homes must establish an environment that is as homelike as possible and includes a culture and environment that treats each resident with respect and dignity,” said the memo signed by David Wright, director of the CMS survey and certification group. “Treating a nursing home resident in any manner that does not uphold a resident’s sense of self-worth and individuality dehumanizes the resident and creates an environment that perpetuates a disrespectful and/or potentially abusive attitude towards the resident(s).”

Under Federal law, nursing homes have a responsibility to protect residents’ privacy, to prohibit abuse, to provide training on how to prevent abuse and to investigate all allegations of abuse. If homes fail to do so, they can face citations, fines and possibly even termination from the Medicare program.

When choosing a long-term care facility for a loved one it is important to ask the right questions. With regard to privacy issues, ask the facility if they have policies on cell phone and social media use. Ask to see those policies and ask how those policies are enforced.

If you believe a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse, contact the experienced Nursing Home Attorneys at The Suthers Law Firm. The Suthers Law Firm, which practices throughout the States of Georgia and South Carolina, regularly represents victims who have been abused or neglected and their families in cases against nursing homes and assisted living facilities.