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On the Rise: Nursing Home Residents Fall Victim to Social Media Abuse

When considering the different types of abuse a loved one in a nursing home may face, few have probably heard of social media abuse. According to a report released by ProPublica, documented cases of nursing home staff sharing abusive or degrading images of nursing home residents on social media accounts is on the rise. NPR reported cases in which employees posted photos of residents who were naked, covered in feces, and even deceased. It’s because of these cruel and abusive acts that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has asked state health departments to enact policies prohibiting employees from taking or sharing degrading photos of residents.

CMS is a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that regulates nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In a memo from CMS, the agency urges state officials to amplify their efforts to investigate and report employees who engage in these activities. ProPublica found that at least 47 reported instances of social media abuse in nursing homes since 2012. In a recent incident, a Los Angeles nursing home employee posted a video to Instagram of a coworker “passing gas” in a resident’s face. In another incident in Iowa, an employee posted a video to Snapchat of a resident covered in feces.

Although states have been urged to impose stiff penalties against employees for social media abuse, CMS is also working to create a federal standard for how facilities should deal with these cases. In the meantime, CMS said that nursing homes have a responsibility to protect residents’ rights and privacy, a responsibility to prohibit abuse, to provide training of all employees on how to prevent abuse, and to investigate all allegations of abuse. If homes fail to do so, they could face citations, fines and even termination from the Medicare program.

The American Health Care Association has issued guidelines that include new employee training and reporting policies to quickly respond to future allegations of social media abuse. Although social media platforms have ways of flagging content, this typically only removes content from the service entirely or prevents others from seeing it. If a user spots threatening, illegal or abusive social media activity against nursing home residents, report the activity to the proper authorities immediately. This will help stop social media abuse against helpless elderly who can’t protect themselves.

As the Baby Boom population ages and enters nursing homes and assisted living facilities, it’s not just up to the loved ones of the residents to keep them safe. If you witness any type of elderly abuse: physical, verbal, emotional, financial or on social media, report it immediately to the proper authorities. You could help prevent that person from ever abusing a helpless elderly person again.

Knapp & Roberts’ expert Arizona nursing home abuse attorneys have been fighting elder abuse for more than 25 years. If someone you love has fallen victim to abuse, contact our Phoenix law firm today for a free consultation to learn how we can help. We have a superior track record of holding assisted living and nursing home facilities accountable when they fail in their duty to deliver proper care, and have won settlements and verdicts in the millions of dollars for our clients. We care. We listen. And we can help. Call us at 480-991-7677 today or fill out the Do I Have a Case form on our website.

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The personal injury attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona, at Knapp & Roberts have the compassion and trial lawyer skills to tell your story to a jury. We will get to know you and your family so that we can help the jury understand what has happened to you and your family and how it has changed your lives. Obtain the compensation necessary for the injuries and losses you have suffered.