Senators Press Regulators on Social Media Nursing Home Abuse
A United States senator is putting pressure on government regulators to take action to address the growing issue of social media nursing home abuse where nursing home workers post degrading photos and videos of residents on social media.
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Senator Tom Carper sent a letter to the Office for Civil Rights asking the regulators what, if anything, they are doing to stop this type of abuse.
The letter referenced a 2015 ProPublica story that identified approximately 36 unacceptable social media posts by nursing home employees. He called this form of abuse an unacceptable failure in our moral obligations to protect the elderly, pointing to the fact that our elderly loved ones should be treated with the highest quality of care and respect.
The Office for Civil Rights is under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for enforcing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a federal patient privacy law. It has the authority to impose criminal and civil penalties for HIPPA violations, but rarely does.
Carper asked the office how many complaints it has received regarding social media abuse of the elderly and how many ended in penalties or were referred to the Department of Justice. He also wanted to know if the office intended to provide nursing homes with guidance regarding HIPPA and social media usage.
A Growing Problem
Two additional social media abuse cases have come to light since the ProPublica article was released in December 2015.
In January, a former nursing home employee took video of a resident who was partially nude and posted it via Snapchat. Snapchat is a social media site where users upload videos and photos that remain visible for a few minutes and then they disappear. The Wisconsin employee was charged with a felony.
A nursing home employee was also charged with a felony in February when the aide took video showing a dementia patient showering and posted it to Snapchat.
Carper is the second senator to ask for action in addressing concerns about social media nursing home abuse. The two believe more must be done to penalize nursing homes for social media abuse violations.