Senior living providers must develop, implement and periodically review social media policies; train employees on appropriate use of social media; and investigate potentially inappropriate behavior related to social media when it has been identified, the National Center for Assisted Living recommends in guidance recently sent to members.

“While social media can offer a tremendous opportunity to effectively communicate assisted living events, distribute health and well-being materials and celebrate accomplishments, unfortunately it can also introduce potential risks to residents, employees and providers,” Lilly Hummel, NCAL’s senior director of policy, told McKnight’s Senior Living. “This tool offers critical information to help assisted living communities ensure that social media is used correctly.”

NCAL says that it, along with the American Health Care Association, developed the guidance at the request of members seeking to protect residents. The organizations began distributing the 11-page document on June 10.

The letter describes various social media platforms, details suggested components of a social media policy and related training, lists inappropriate uses of social media and what to do about them, and provides links to additional resources. It also advises employers to familiarize themselves with National Labor Relations Board guidance on social media use by workers and HIPAA privacy and security rules.

Last month, AHCA President and CEO Mark Parkinson and NCAL Chairman Christian Mason informed Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, of the impending issuance and other actions after he contacted them in April asking about the organizations’ positions on background checks, employee cell phone use at work and the prevention of elder abuse via social media.

“It is important that members of Congress and the experts in the private sector work together to find commonsense solutions to new forms of elderly abuse,” Grassley wrote.

Earlier this month, Grassley also sent letters to executives at Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram asking them to outline any steps they have taken to prevent the misuse of their platforms to exploit older adults in senior living communities. In all three letters, as he had done in his letter to AHCA/NCAL and in a March 14 letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Grassley cited as an impetus an incident that occurred in January in an Illinois assisted living and memory care community in which a former certified nursing assisted allegedly hired three men to have sex with female residents with dementia while he recorded them. That CNA, Channing Butler, pleaded guilty on June 6 to three counts of solicitation to commit aggravated criminal sexual assault against three residents with dementia and faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced July 29.