Federal Health Regulators Cracking Down on Social Media Abuse of Nursing Home Residents
Federal health regulators have initiated a crackdown on nursing home employees who post demeaning images of residents to social media, ordering state health departments to take action.
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The announcement comes after recent ProPublica investigations uncovered numerous instances in which nursing home staff posted demeaning photos and videos to social media of residents who were naked, covered in feces or even deceased.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a memo earlier this month instructing state health departments to initiate a review of nursing homes’ policies to verify all have rules in place prohibiting staff members from photographing residents in a demeaning manner.
Federal health regulators have also called for state officials to promptly investigate complaints of social media abuse. Any employees involved in such activities should be reported to the state’s licensing agencies for further investigation and discipline, if appropriate.
The memo stated that nursing homes have a duty to create a homelike environment for their residents, which involves establishing a culture where residents are treated with respect. Actions that hinder a resident’s feelings of self-worth are dehumanizing, disrespectful and possibly abusive.
Nursing homes are also tasked with protecting resident privacy and preventing resident abuse. Exploiting nursing home residents via social media can be considered abuse, yet some state laws do not explicitly forbid it.
This has created difficulties in punishing such abuse. The Office for Civil Rights, as well as the American Health Care Association, a trade group for the nursing home industry, are working on creating uniform standards for dealing with social media abuse.