Social Media Abuse of Nursing Home Residents Under Federal Scrutiny

Posted On: August 25, 2016 under

Social media apps like Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you hear about cases of nursing home abuse, but these platforms are increasingly becoming a part of inappropriate and even criminal behavior committed against the elderly. Now, federal health regulators are stepping in to increase oversight of nursing home employees due to several recent cases of employees who have posted cruel and abusive images or videos of residents on social media.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has recently laid out some requirements to state health departments that cover social media abuse specifically and the posting of abusive incidents on social media sites. As the overseer of nursing homes, the Centers are at the forefront of the fight against this particular kind of mistreatment, and they have made the following recommendations:

  • All nursing homes should have detailed policies in place that forbid taking demeaning photographs or videos of residents.
    If any complaints arise relating to this type of abuse, they must be investigated immediately so that the employees involved can be reported to state licensing agencies for further investigation and discipline.
  • Any nursing homes that do not follow these rules may find themselves in trouble, too, in the form of citations, fines, and possibly even removal from Medicare.

As David Wright, director of the Centers’ certification group, said, “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).” The exploitation of posting demeaning photos or videos online is clearly not in keeping with the way residents should be treated, and as such, this kind of social media abuse must be addressed seriously by the law.

Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has gotten involved in the fight for reform, reaching out to groups such as the Department of Justice and the Office for Civil Rights. The goal is to standardize the laws and consequences for social media abuse of residents across states because right now, there is a wide variety of laws and applications from state to state. The trade groups for the nursing home industry have stepped in to make recommendations for training programs, cell phone bans while working with residents, and how to respond to misconduct as well. Although there is still a long way to go to ensure that residents are as protected as they deserve, it is heartening that so many people and organizations are coming together to fight for the rights of the elderly to continued dignity and respect, no matter where they live.