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Social media becoming new form of abuse in nursing homes

Almost everyone is on social media in one form or another— nursing home workers included. While social media can be a fun and enjoyable way of sharing photos and videos with friends and family, it is now one of the biggest dangers to nursing home residents.

According to a recent article, there have been over 65 reports of nursing home workers posting photos and videos of residents on social media since 2012. Some of the worst incidents of social media abuse have occurred throughout California.

Incidents of abuse in California

In 2014, a California nursing home caught a worker sending inappropriate pictures of residents on Snapchat. According to the Washington Post, residents in some of the images “appeared to be deceased.”

A year later, another nursing home in Vista, California fell into national spotlight when a worker captured a video of an elderly female resident taking a shower with a second worker laughing in the background. Sadly, many nursing workers get away with their actions because of a lack of nursing home laws pertaining to social media.

Laws that protect residents from social media abuse

Unfortunately, there are no specific federal laws or California state laws that pertain to social media abuse in nursing homes. However, the healthcare industry is subject to the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which is intended to protect patient confidentiality. An image is in violation of HIPPA if it contains any of the following:

  • A resident’s face
  • Tattoos or identifying marks
  • Name, birth date, address or social security number

Additionally, the federal Nursing Home Reform Act requires workers to “maintain the dignity and respect of each resident” and “promote each resident’s quality of life.” The California Code of Regulations for state agencies also contains a chapter on Skilled Nursing Facilities. The code states that residents are “to be treated with consideration, respect and full recognition of dignity and individuality, including privacy in treatment and in care of personal needs.”

Navigating nursing home laws can be complex. If you suspect your loved one is suffering from social media abuse in a skilled nursing facility, consult with an experienced elder abuse and neglect lawyer as soon as possible.

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