What to Know About Social Media Abuse at Nursing Homes

Social Media Abuse in Nursing Homes

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on April 30, 2018 in Nursing Home Abuse
Updated on February 24, 2022

resident alone in roomWhen people think of nursing home abuse, they often imagine residents being physically assaulted or verbally harassed. However, in recent years, more residents have been victims of social media abuse.

This form of abuse occurs when nursing home staff members record videos or take pictures of residents without their consent and post them on social media. The pictures often show residents in compromising positions, such as when they are naked or barely clothed or with signs of physical abuse.

If your loved one has been a victim of social media abuse, it is important to talk to a nursing home abuse lawyer about your legal options. The Wisconsin nursing home abuse lawyers at Pitman, Kalkhoff, Sicula & Dentice can review your situation in a free consultation and determine if the facility can be held accountable for your loved one’s damages.

What Is Social Media Abuse?

Social media abuse involves taking unauthorized pictures or making recordings of nursing home residents, potentially in compromised positions. These pictures or recordings are posted on social media networks and they often show nursing home residents unclothed, in embarrassing situations or with signs of physical abuse.

Some media reports regarding social media abuse reveal situations involving:

  • Sending a photo of a nursing home resident’s genitals to a friend who uploaded the picture to Facebook
  • Taking pictures of nursing home residents who were vomiting or being assisted with fecal impaction and uploading them to Snapchat
  • Sending pictures of a resident’s genitals covered in fecal matter to Snapchat
  • Taking pictures of a nursing home resident on the commode
  • Recording a staff member slapping a resident’s face while others laughed
  • Taking pictures or making recordings of humiliating and abusive situations

2016 Federal Guidance on Social Media Abuse

In 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an official memorandum about social media abuse. The memo focused on facility responsibilities related to social media abuse. CMS emphasized that nursing homes have a duty to create a homelike environment and encourage an environment that treats residents with respect and dignity.

CMS stated that all nursing home residents have a right to their privacy and not to have photos or videos of them taken that may be embarrassing or that may demean them. Taking unauthorized pictures of the resident and his or her private space is a violation of the resident’s privacy.

Nursing homes are required to develop policies prohibiting the use of unauthorized pictures and recordings and uploading them to social media platforms. Nursing homes must also educate staff about the prohibition of these types of pictures and recordings that demean or humiliate residents.

The memo also explained what state survey agencies must do if they receive allegations of social media abuse. Any agency that receives the following allegations needs to do an onsite investigation to determine if the facility is in compliance with federal law:

  • Unauthorized photographs or recordings of a resident that have been taken, posted on social media or transmitted through multimedia messaging by staff
  • Photos or videos that humiliate or demean residents, which includes posting the picture on social media

During the survey, if the nursing home is determined not to be in substantial compliance with federal requirements, the survey team must identify:

  • The residents affected
  • The specific noncompliance
  • The outcome caused by noncompliance

Depending on the findings, the offender may be reported to the nurse aid registry and other state licensing authorities if nursing home abuse is suspected.

How to Prevent Social Media Abuse

Nursing homes must take this problem seriously. There are many effective methods that they can employ to minimize the incidences of this form of abuse, including:

  • Implementing comprehensive policies that identify prohibited use and capture of images or video and social media policies
  • Considering the implementation of a policy banning cellphones
  • Prohibiting the carrying of cellphones in patient care areas
  • Educating staff on various forms of abuse and providing specific education regarding the consequences of sharing unauthorized, abusive, humiliating, demeaning or exploitative pictures
  • Reacting quickly to any allegations of social media abuse
  • Notifying authorities as appropriate

Seek Legal Assistance

If you would like to learn more about the potential to bring forth a claim regarding social media abuse, contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer for assistance.

The attorneys at PKSD provide free legal consultations and charge no upfront fees. You will not be assessed legal fees unless you receive compensation at the end of the legal process.

Contact our firm right now by calling 877-877-2228.

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