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U.S. Senate Challenges Nursing Home Resident Abuse on Social Media

U.S. senator questions the government about their response and action to reports of nursing home abuse and privacy violations made on social media.

Delaware senator Thomas R. Carper recently sent a letter to Jocelyn Samuels, the director of the Office for Civil Rights. In his correspondence, the senator asks Samuels about what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is doing to combat the rising issue of nursing home resident’s privacy being violated on social media.

ProPublica published an investigation that found 35 cases of nursing home abuse, where workers posted inappropriate images and videos of residents to social media. Reports show that nursing home aides took pictures of patients who were partially or fully unclothed, who had dementia, or were in compromising positions. 16 instances happened on Snapchat, a social media site where users can share videos for a limited time. Such events highlight a violation of the senior resident’s privacy and safety.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects nursing home residents under federal patient privacy law. Senator Carper’s inquiry emphasizes the rising problem of social media and abuse. He exclaims,

This type of abuse is unacceptable and falls short of our moral obligation to the ‘least of these’ in our society. We all want our loved ones to receive the quality of care and attention they deserve from the professionals to whom we entrust their care.

Some questions Carper asks Samuels are:

  • Did your office receive complaints of HIPAA violations? What was done to resolve these issues?
  • Of the resolved complaints, did any require referrals to the Department of Justice or civil penalties?
  • Does your office plan to issue guidelines for facilities on how to handle such cases?
  • How does your office conduct compliance reviews?

The office’s deputy director for health information privacy, Deven McGraw, responded by saying they will reply to the Senator’s letter. However, at this point, there is nothing to release.

Carper is not the first senator to question actions taken to combat social media use and nursing home abuse. In December, Senator Joe Donnelly called on the Senate Aging Committee to investigate the issues as well.

At Pintas & Mullins Law Firm, we believe everyone deserves respect and dignity. Nursing home staff have a responsibility to properly care for their residents. If your loved one was abused or mistreated in their care facility, contact our nursing home abuse lawyers today. We serve clients nationwide.

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