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CMS Directs States to Prevent Humiliation of Residents Via Social Media

Responding to widespread abuses of nursing home residents via postings of humiliating photos and videos on social media, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a memo directing state survey agencies to crack down on the abuse. The August 5, 2016 CMS memo – Protecting Resident Privacy and Prohibiting Mental Abuse Related to Photographs and Audio/Video Recordings by Nursing Home Staff – was prompted by media reports, including a December 2015 article by ProPublica that described 35 cases nationally, including California, in which long term care facility caregivers had shared dehumanizing photos or videos of residents on social media.

The memo, which could have been stronger, states these acts are violations of residents’ rights to be treated with dignity, to privacy and confidentiality and to be free from abuse. It summarizes a nursing home’s duty to report and respond to these acts and directs state survey agencies to review facility policies and procedures related to prohibiting staff from taking or using photos or videos in any manner that would demean or humiliate residents.