Belsky Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC A Personal Injury & Workers’ Compensation Law Firm

How the feds are cracking down on social media abuse in nursing homes

When most people hear the terms nursing home abuse or nursing home neglect, what likely springs to mind are things like bedsores, malnutrition, medication errors, falls and unacceptable living conditions.

While this is certainly accurate, the unfortunate reality is that these terms have recently expanded to include yet another form of deplorable and demeaning conduct: social media abuse.

Indeed, major media outlets and public advocacy groups have recently reported on an alarming rise in the number of nursing home residents across the country being unknowingly victimized by staff members who post dehumanizing videos and photos of them on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

As appalling and unbelievable as this type of conduct is, the good news is that it is now on the radar of federal officials.

Just last month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency tasked with oversight of nursing homes, issued a memo to health departments in all 50 states advising them of the need to start ensuring that nursing homes and assisted living facilities have the necessary policies prohibiting social media abuse in place.

The memo further instructed state health departments to investigate any complaints of social media abuse quickly and thoroughly, and to report offending staff members to the applicable licensing authority.

The CMS memo also outlined how nursing homes and assisted living facilities are legally obligated to prohibit abuse, protect privacy of all residents, institute the necessary policies and conduct their own internal investigations into all abuse allegations. Failure to do any of this, the agency noted, can result in citations, fines and expulsion from the Medicare program.

In addition to the CMS memo, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), penned letters to both the Office for Civil Rights within the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice asking whether the necessary measures are in place to punish this conduct, as well as various social media companies asking for resources to be dedicated to combating this pressing problem.

Here's hoping that these actions by the federal government have the desired effect and that we stop seeing news stories highlighting this sort of unimaginable conduct.

Always remember, that if your loved one has endured any type of serious injuries that you believe are directly attributable to nursing home abuse and or neglect that you have options for seeking justice on their behalf.     

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