A report published by ProPublica, a non-profit investigative newsroom journal, showed a spike in cases of elder abuse and invasion of privacy in nursing homes on social media. Twelve incidents were investigated within the first 7 months of 2016, totaling the amount of these occurrences in 2015. As a result, federal health agencies have announced plans to stop employees from posting demeaning videos and photographs of residents.
On August 5, 2016, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a memo stating state health departments should begin checking all nursing home policies to ensure they prevent employees from taking and posting indecent videos and photographs of residents. The memo also called for officials to investigate complaints of such incidents and report offenders to state licensing agencies for investigation and possible discipline.
This change in policy has come as a result of a video shared by a nurse in Wisconsin showing a fellow employee kicking a patient’s wheelchair, as the patient attempted to kick back with multiple employees standing around laughing. The CMS now requires nursing home employees to report abuse to at least one law enforcement agency. They also stated any person who fails to report these incidents could also face penalties, including civil monetary penalties.
Patient advocates would like federal agencies to be more explicit in outlining penalties for employees who publicly abuse residents. Robyn Grant, Director of National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, stated that guidelines need to be produced as to who is responsible for reporting such incidents in order to ensure compliance with these rules. In 2015 there were 35 cases of nursing home staff using social media to abuse residents; however the facilities did not receive any violations.
Snapchat has been the most commonly used form of social media in these incidents because abusers believe it is private, however this is not true. Indiana State Department of Health Spokesperson received an official memo from the federal government requesting nursing facilities investigate their social media policies, in an effort to prevent employees from posting at work. John Strauss, a professor at Ball State University, called for companies to ban electronic devices from places people are being cared for.