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Regulators AIM to Prohibit Social Media Abuse in Nursing Homes

Garcia & Artigliere

Social media has created a digital realm that allows users to easily connect with one another and express themselves by sharing pictures and videos for the world to see. On the other hand, social media has caused several issues in nursing homes as caregivers have used their phones to exploit the vulnerable, elderly population. Find out what actions the American Health Care Association and social media platforms are taking to create a safer environment for nursing home residents.

Exploitation Violations

ProPublica (an independent investigative non-profit) has identified documented abuse among residents using social media platforms like Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. Taking, posting and sharing unauthorized images of residents via social media platforms can constitute as abuse in violation of the Federal Conditions of Participation (COPs) for nursing homes.

• Since 2012, 47 cases have occurred in which workers in nursing homes and assisted-living centers shared abusive photos or videos of residents on social media networks.
• 12 incidents occurred in the first 7 months of 2016, which is equal to the total amount that took place in 2015.
• 1 out of 4 occurrences took place in Indiana. Other instances of documented abuse took place in California, Iowa, and Colorado.

Social Media Platforms Express Concern

Following ProPublica’s earlier coverage, Senator Charles Grassley, Iowa Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent letters to social media companies and federal agencies asking what actions they can take to prevent abuse among nursing home residents.

Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram responded in an effort to prevent shared media of nursing home residents and nursing home abuse.

• Rules: These platforms prohibit users from taking pictures of others without their knowledge and consent. This includes sharing content that targets individuals with the intent of degrading or shaming them. Users who violate these rules are banned.
• In-App Reporting: Snapchat is developing a reporting app for a faster and easier way to report abuse. With this feature, Snapchat will be able to quickly investigate reports. They also have a 24/7 hotline to facilitate emergency requests.
• Enforcing the law: Facebook and Instagram have content policies designed to keep their users safe and resources dedicated to report any violations. They also work with law enforcement to ensure the rules are followed.

Social Media Training Checklist

The American Care Association created a Social Media Use policy for care centers that must be reviewed by new and existing employees. Employees are required to:

• Recognize that even a deleted post or picture can still exist in cyberspace.
• Know that even if a resident posts information, staff should not share this information on their personal pages in any form.
• Avoid taking and/or transmitting any unauthorized photos or recording of a resident (written authorization is required).
• Recognize that any privacy or confidentiality breach must be immediately reported to center management.

Social media abuse is just one of the many types of nursing home abuse to look out for. If you believe your loved one may be experiencing elder or nursing home abuse, contact a member of the law firm Garcia & Artigliere & Faulkner. Our elder abuse attorneys are national leaders in cases concerning elder care. Contact us at (800) 328-2630 for a free case review.


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