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Understanding Nursing Home Residents’ Right to Privacy

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Earlier this year, the administrator of Clarksville Skilled Nursing & Rehab Center in Iowa received a call from a concerned member of the community. The call was regarding a disturbing breach of privacy. An employee of the facility took an inappropriate picture of one of the facility’s patients. The employee then proceeded to send the picture out on Snapchat to multiple people with a crude and humiliating caption.

Many patients in a nursing home are vulnerable both physically and mentally. It’s a terrible abuse of power if workers use this vulnerability for their own entertainment.

Unfortunately, this has become a sad reality in some nursing homes across the country. There have been multiple instances where embarrassing pictures and videos have been shared on social media sites such as Snapchat and Facebook. The videos typically star the helpless elderly and are often humiliating.

What many do not realize about this cruel form of entertainment is that it is illegal in multiple different realms of the law. This type of behavior violates multiple regulations including the federal nursing home regulations, Indiana state laws, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, better known as HIPAA.

Federal Conditions of Participation (CoPs)

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In order to ensure the safety and privacy of nursing home patients, many health boards have addressed these specific issues. It was made extremely clear by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that it is unacceptable to take pictures of patients even if you have no intention of sharing them on social media. Because of the vulnerable mental state of many of the patients, the CoPs also make it clear that even if you have the patient’s permission to take the photos, the nursing home could face various legal consequences.

Indiana Law

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Indiana state law mirrors federal regulations and protects many rights of nursing home residents. One right to consider is the person’s right to respect and dignity. That means the residents have the right to be free from abuse and free from exploitation. Nursing home residents also have a right to privacy and confidentiality. Though this right primarily focuses on health records, it can be breached by any information shared about a resident on social media.

HIPAA

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This behavior can also lead to a possible HIPAA breach. HIPAA has set privacy rules that address behaviors that fall along this line. The main aim for HIPAA is protection of the patient’s privacy in terms of the health information. However, you don’t have to post a patient’s medical records online to violate HIPAA. By posting a full-face photo of a patient and providing the name of the facility, you could be committing a HIPAA breach.

Help from an Indiana Nursing Home Abuse Attorney

No one should have to go through the pain of having a loved one humiliated on social media while in a vulnerable state. If your loved one’s right to privacy was breached by a nursing home worker, you could be entitled to compensation. Call Hensley Legal Group today for a free consultation or contact us online.