CMS social media guidelines of value to all senior living settings, organization says

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Barbara Gay, vice president of public policy communications for LeadingAge
Barbara Gay, vice president of public policy communications for LeadingAge

Even senior living operators beyond the purview of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would do well to heed the federal agency's recent guidance on employee use of social media in the workplace, LeadingAge told its members Wednesday.

Nursing home surveyors soon will request and review facility policies and procedures to prevent staff from taking and distributing photos or videos that “demean or humiliate a resident,” CMS announced in a memo to state survey agency directors on Aug. 5. The memo outlined federal requirements of nursing homes regarding resident rights and staff treatment of residents, training of staff on abuse prevention and reporting procedures. It also included guidance for surveyors on investigating complaints of photo or video-related abuse of residents and reporting any offending staff members to state licensing authorities.

“We also feel strongly that these rules also apply to ALL settings of care,” LeadingAge stated in a post on its website.

“No individual's privacy, whether the individual lives in a nursing home, memory care unit, assisted living or in the community, should be violated by having photos or other information posted on social media without knowledge or consent,” Barbara Gay, vice president of public policy communications for LeadingAge, told McKnight's Senior Living. “Although it would seem to be elementary courtesy, in healthcare settings, staff also have to be careful of violating HIPAA protections. It is advisable for all aging services providers to inform and train their staff against compromising resident and client privacy.”

The CMS memo comes after media reports and remarks from lawmakers criticizing the increasing number of incidents involving nursing home workers posting photos and videos of residents to social media applications. Assisted living and memory care communities have not been immune from the phenomenon, either.

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living released social media guidance for their members in June after Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in April asked the organizations to detail their positions on background checks, employee cell phone use at work and the prevention of elder abuse via social media. In his letter to the organizations, Grassley cited an incident that has occurred in January at an Illinois assisted living and memory care community, in which a former certified nursing assisted hired three men to have sex with female residents with dementia while he recorded them. That worker pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 years in prison on July 29.

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