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Employees of nursing homes and assisted living facilities have been using their social media accounts to post photos and videos of residents without their permission. Some of the photos depict residents in humiliating or demeaning situations. Dozens of incidents involving such inappropriate photos on social media have been identified since 2012.
It is difficult to envision a less respectful act involving a vulnerable nursing home resident than taking his or her photo at their most private moments and making those photos public. Doing so may also violate the law.
These demeaning and embarrassing posts violate the privacy rights of nursing home residents as well as statutes enacted to protect residents from mental and emotional abuse.
Delaware law protects nursing home residents’ rights to receive “considerate, respectful, and appropriate care, treatment and services” in compliance with federal and state law and regulations. Delaware law recognizes each person’s personal and property rights, including dignity. Nursing home residents have the right to receive “considerate, respectful, and appropriate care, treatment and services.” In addition, the law provides that every patient and resident “shall be free from verbal, physical or mental abuse.”
Nursing home employees who take photos of patients and residents and post them on social media, and the facilities that fail to prevent such acts, are coming under closer scrutiny by state and federal agencies.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a memo to state health departments in 2016, encouraging them to check that nursing homes implement and enforce policies that prohibit nursing home staff from taking demeaning or embarrassing photographs of residents. State officials should investigate and report employees’ offensive social media posts to licensing agencies. The memo states that these posts violate nursing home residents’ rights, including their right to be treated with dignity and their right to privacy. Nursing home staff should be prohibited from taking, posting, or reposting, photos or videos that demean or embarrass residents.
The American Health Care Association (AHCA) offers guidance and training to nursing home officials and employees. The AHCA stresses the importance of having a social media policy and keeping it updated to protect the privacy of patients. These efforts to avoid social media abuses protect both residents and employees.
Nursing home employees typically use Snapchat to post photos of residents and patients, but have also posted photos on Facebook and Instagram, as well as other social media. Some social media posts appear only for a short time before disappearing as soon as you view the photos. If you are shocked when you see a social media post depicting your loved one in a nursing home, you must act quickly. If you see it, save it. Familiarize yourself with the screenshot feature of various social media.
If you have seen a photo of your loved one on social media and believe it was taken by nursing home staff, our experienced Milford nursing home abuse lawyers are prepared to help you. At Rhoades & Morrow, our attorneys can investigate and advocate for the rights of nursing home patients and residents of other types of long-term care facilities.
Contact us online or call our Milford, Delaware offices at 302-422-6705 to schedule a free consultation. We also have offices in Wilmington and Bear, where we represent clients in upstate and downstate Delaware.