Nursing home social media abuse

The ubiquity of cameras and cell phones has created a new problem in nursing homes: nursing home workers taking inappropriate photos and videos of residents and posting them on social media, often without the residents’ knowledge or permission.

Abuses include recording cognitively impaired patients in embarrassing situations, including one where a nursing assistant posted a photo of a resident naked and lying in bed surrounded by feces. Some of these postings document abuse. There are even images of dead patients.

In response to an exposé by ProPublica, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a memo, “Protecting Resident Privacy and Prohibiting Mental Abuse Related to Photographs and Audio/Video Recordings” to state health departments, making it clear that releasing inappropriate photos and videos is abuse, and nursing homes must have rules to prevent it.

The memo states: “Each nursing home must provide training on abuse prohibition policies for all staff who provide care and services to residents, including prohibiting staff from using any type of equipment (e.g., cameras, smart phones, and other electronic devices) to take, keep, or distribute photographs and recordings of residents that are demeaning or humiliating.”

And: “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. 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).  Federal nursing home regulations require that each nursing home provides care and services in a person-centered environment in which all individuals are treated as human beings.”

The laws vary from state to state, but nursing homes that do not comply with federal requirements to prevent abuse can be cited, fined, and possibly removed from the Medicare program. Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, called on the U.S. Department of Justice and the Office for Civil Rights to review their policies.

At least 70% of people over age 65 require long term care at some point.

A long term care insurance plan can provide for options ranging from home care to nursing homes.

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