Feds cracking down on social media abuse in nursing homes

Posted at 1:07 AM, Aug 09, 2016

The feds are stepping in to make sure elderly residents of nursing homes and senior care facilities are not abused on social media.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is under the Department of Health and Human Services. The CMS oversees nursing homes.

The agency sent a memo to state health departments across the country on Friday, Aug. 5 outlining plans for how to deal with the abuse of patients on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. It also details the facility and state responsibilities related to the protection of residents.

The agency says that all nursing homes should begin checking to make sure they have policies in place that prohibit staff from taking humiliating photos of residents.

A nursing home worker in Vista, California is accused of posting a picture of a partially nude 90-year-old woman on Snapchat. It happened at LifeHOUSE Vista which has new owners now and is called Astor Healthcare Center.

This case is one of dozens across the country involving the abuse of patients on social media. Other documented cases can be found here.

Guadalupe Salazar was visiting her son at Astor Monday night. She welcomes the federal crack down.

"That's good. I mean I don't like that, I don't like it. I have my son in there and I don't want to see pictures of my son in the Facebook, I mean for what reason?"

Back in January, LaToya Walker was charged with misdemeanor counts of elderly abuse and invasion of privacy. She refused to talk to 10News television station in San Diego about the allegations.

The video allegedly shows two female LifeHOUSE Vista  employees laughing at a 90-year-old woman with severe dementia before they gave her a shower.

A whistleblower provided images from the video to 10News since videos posted on Snapchat disappear within 24 hours. At the time, Tom Allen, an attorney for LifeHOUSE said he could not immediately comment on the charges because he may be called as a witness in the case.

Allen confirmed that Walker and the other worker have since been fired. The name of the other worker has not been released.

Allen also added that the California Certified Nursing Assistant board revoked the certification of one of the women and suspended the other for 30 days.

Since the video surfaced, the case has been investigated by the California Department of Health and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department as possible elder abuse.

LifeHOUSE was featured in a Team 10 investigation in 2014. In that instance, the family of a woman who died after being hit by a food cart at the facility filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

Following an emotionally trying legal battle for the family, a jury ruled in their favor. The defense appealed the verdict and the case was settled before the appeal concluded.