Posted on October 24, 2016

A good nursing home should have policies in place to prevent social media abuseYour loved one has the right to be treated with respect and dignity at all times while residing in a nursing home. There are no qualifications to this statement, and there are no exceptions.

Yet, sadly, some nursing homes need to be reminded of this by the federal government. Late last year, Pro Publica published a report of at least 47 separate incidents where photos or videos of nursing home residents were shared on social media sites such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.

How Bad Are These Social Media Posts?

Below are some examples of the posts made by nursing home workers about residents:

  • Videos of workers verbally harassing residents.
  • Pictures of naked residents in bed, in the shower, in the bathtub, and sometimes seemingly posed for the cameras.
  • Pictures of residents in difficult situations such as vomiting, using the bathroom, or while covered in feces.
  • Videos of workers committing physical abuse.
  • Videos of workers asking residents about their sex lives, drug use, and other personal questions.
  • Photos and videos of nursing home workers acting in sexually provocative ways around or toward residents.
  • Photos and videos of nursing home workers making fun of or laughing at residents.

It is alleged that these posts were made without the nursing home residents’ consent and that in some cases dementia or other medical conditions would have kept the residents from providing informed consent.

All of these pictures and videos are difficult to see or even to read about. Now, imagine how humiliating, degrading, and dehumanizing these posts are for the residents involved and how their children, grandchildren, and loved ones must feel.

Nursing Homes Can—And Must—Prevent This Type of Abuse

On August 5, 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent a memo to state survey agency directors about the social media abuse of nursing home residents. The memo stated in clear terms,

“Each resident has the right to be free from all types of abuse, including mental abuse. Mental abuse includes, but is not limited to, abuse that is facilitated or caused by nursing home staff taking or using photographs or recordings in any manner that would demean or humiliate a resident(s).”

The memo reminds recipients that federal nursing home regulations require each nursing home resident to be treated as an individual and as a human being. Residents have the right to live free from abuse, they have the right to privacy, and they have the right to confidentiality.

Furthermore, the memo requires each nursing home to take action. Specifically, nursing homes must, “…review and/or revise their written abuse prevention policies and procedures to include and ensure that nursing home staff are prohibited from taking or using photographs or recordings in any manner that would demean or humiliate a resident(s).” Additionally, training must be provided to staff and nursing homes, and states must respond appropriately to all allegations of abuse.

Could Social Media Abuse Happen at Your Loved One’s Nursing Home?

Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to know if this type of abuse could happen until it does. However, if your loved one is in a nursing home, or you are looking for a nursing home for your loved one then, it is important to consider:

  • Whether the nursing home has policies about the use of personal cell phones at work.
  • How nursing home workers are treating residents during any visits you make to the home.
  • Whether any reports or allegations of abuse or neglect have been made against the nursing home.
  • Whether you have seen any posts from the nursing home on social media that give you cause for concern.
  • How the nursing home responds when you specifically say that your loved one is to appear in any social media posts.

It is also important to remember that you can do your very best to select the right home for your loved one, but you cannot prevent every potential form of abuse.

What If Your Loved One Has Been the Victim of Abuse on Social Media?

While you couldn’t prevent your loved one from showing up on social media, you can take action now to protect your loved one’s rights if you think she has been abused in a nursing home. You can contact an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer to talk about your loved one’s rights and to hold the nursing home accountable for what happened. To learn more, we encourage you to contact us anytime—day or night—at 888-450-4456 or via this website. We also encourage you to use social media proactively to avoid this type of abuse; share this blog post on Facebook or Twitter and let others know of the danger and more about how they can protect their loved ones.


Matthew L. White
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Founder & Partner of Louisville Personal Injury Law Firm Gray & White Law
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