State and federal authorities are cracking down on health care workers posting nude and vulgar photos and videos of nursing home residents on social media, but ProPublica has found that the abusive behavior is continuing despite efforts to stop it.
An analysis by the public interest group uncovered 18 incidents of employees of nursing homes and assisted living facilities posting unauthorized photos and videos of residents on social media in the past year. The new cases bring the total number of identified cases to 65 since 2012. Most involve Snapchat, but others include Facebook and Instagram.
An incident earlier this year involved an employee at Clarksville Skilled Nursing & Rehab Center in Iowa who sent a photo over Snapchat of a resident’s buttocks and a staff member holding a bowel movement in the palm of a gloved hand. Another incident involved a nursing assistant in Wisconsin who shot a photo of a resident’s inner thighs and genitals while the resident sat on the toilet. The employee shared the photo on Snapchat. A third incident involved a medical assistant at an assisted living facility in Florida who took video of two residents having sex and posted it on Snapchat.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has urged state health departments to ensure that all nursing homes have policies in place that prohibit staff from taking demeaning photos or videos of residents, and to quickly investigate such complaints as they are reported. “CMS continues to be concerned about the mental abuse that results from such unauthorized use or posting of resident photos and videos on social media,” a CMS spokesperson said.
Unfortunately, residents of long-term care facilities and their family members’ hands are tied when seeking justice for vulnerable nursing home residents. Many skilled nursing facilities require residents to sign binding arbitration clauses with new resident applications, which strips them of their right to a trial by jury in the event of elder abuse or neglect. These forced arbitration agreements require patients to agree to settle all legal disputes outside the courtroom and before an arbitrator.
Last year, CMS proposed new guidelines that would stop nursing homes from requiring patents to sign binding arbitration agreements if they wanted to receive federal reimbursement for care. But the nursing home industry fought back, filing a lawsuit to stop this requirement. The regulation is currently on hold as the court weighs the decision.