Abu Ghraib, Senior Edition: CMS Issues Guidance on Social Media Humiliation of Nursing Home Residents

Following recent media reports of Abu Graib-like staff humiliation of nursing home residents via social media, the federal government issued new standards for reporting such activities.

ProPublica this summer uncovered a series of incidents — isolated, but certainly constituting a trend — in which nursing home staff took to social media with nauseating images of residents. According to a summary recently posted by NPR:

The move follows a series of ProPublica reports that have documented abuses in nursing homes and assisted living centers using social media platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. These include photos and videos of residents who were naked, covered in feces or even deceased. They also include images of abuse.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) responded with instructions to state survey agency directors to be on the alert for social media abuses.  The standards note that a nursing home should “establish an environmental that is as homelike as possible” and “uphold a resident’s sense of self-worth.”  They realized that photographing naked, abused, fecal-covered residents does not quite meet the standard.

In an attempt to stifle conditions worse than a POW camp, the CMS told its surveyors to be on the lookout:

If a photograph or recording of a resident, or the manner that it is used, demeans or humiliates a resident(s), regardless of whether the resident provided consent and regardless of the resident’s cognitive status, the surveyor must investigate Federal requirements related to abuse at F223 and F226. This would include, but is not limited to, photographs and recordings of residents that contain nudity, sexual and intimate relations, bathing, showering, toileting, providing perineal care such as after an incontinence episode, agitating a resident to solicit a response, derogatory statements directed to the resident, showing a body part without the resident’s face whether it is the chest, limbs, or back, labeling resident’s pictures and/or providing comments in a demeaning manner, directing a resident to use inappropriate language, and showing the resident in a compromised position.

Read the full memo here.

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