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Federal Crackdown on Social Media Nursing Home Abuse

September 25 2016 | Blog
  • Kentucky Social Media Nursing Injury Attorney

    Nursing homes have traditionally been considered places where the elderly can enjoy respectful treatment and a high quality of care. The elderly, however, are vulnerable to abuse by those that run the nursing homes. Much of the abuse goes unnoticed by the general public, but a recent trend has emerged in which the staff of nursing homes post degrading pictures of their residents on social media outlets for entertainment purposes. Injury Lawyers Hughes & Coleman want to make the public aware of this trend and encourage the protection of the elderly’s rights.

    The Problem

    ProPublica has released a report identifying 35 different cases (since 2012) involving the staff members of nursing homes posting photos and video feeds of elderly residents. Many of these photos and videos have included nudity in which the nursing home and assisted-living center residents are fully or semi naked. Oftentimes, the app Snapchat is used to convey the pictures and videos.

    In a few of the instances in which nude media of the elderly have been shared, criminal charges have been brought against the workers responsible. When a worker posts a picture or video of a resident, that worker is transgressing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This act is a federal law which protects patients’ privacy. Violating the law brings criminal and civil penalties on the perpetrators.

    Specific Cases

    Several cases of elderly abuse through privacy violations have been well-documented. In February 2014, a video from a Prestige Post-Acute and Rehab Center employee was shared on Snapchat of a nursing home patient using the toilet while she sang. A month later, a worker from Rosewood Care Center took a video of another assistant brushing a nylon strap over an elderly woman’s face. In February 2015, a staff member of Autumn Care Center posted a video of patients being taught the words to a popular hip hop song while one resident wore a sign stating, “Got these hoes trained”.

    Who’s Monitoring the Privacy Violations?

    In order to archive these incidents, ProPublica has had to meticulously track inspection reports by the government, as well as search through media coverage and court cases. Some people claim that these violations of privacy go underreported, arguing that patients with dementia are not lucid enough to understand or report the abuse they experience. The instances that have come to light are usually revealed by other workers who receive the Snapchats and feel obligated to say something.

    What’s Being Done?

    Despite the notoriety of some of these cases, the Office for Civil Rights has yet to bring penalties against nursing homes for privacy transgressions via social media. The Office for Civil Rights, responsible for enforcing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, has also neglected to make recommendations to care providers in regards to protecting resident privacy.


    Fortunately, the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has gone further in trying to stop the elderly abuse. The agency has issued citations to care homes based on deficient privacy policies. Further, the agency is pushing for redefinitions of legal terms such as “neglect” and “sexual abuse” so as to include the recent trend of social media postings under the umbrella of punishable offenses.

    Hughes & Coleman Aim to End Abuse

    Hughes & Coleman stand opposed to the violation of your rights, regardless of demographic. We fight to ensure your rights are protected from those who would infringe upon them. Contact us to learn more about how Hughes & Coleman, Injury Lawyers, can help.

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