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Nursing home medication errors are a frequent and serious problem across the country. In these instances, residents are given the wrong medication or not given the medication in the dosage or frequency required by the physician’s order. This occurs as a result of carelessness on the part of the staff. Additional contributing factors also include the lack of supervision of the nurses administering the medications or not having enough properly trained and supervised staff to administer the medications. If you or your loved one endured suffering because of a nursing home medication error, contact The Carlson Law Firm for a free consultation with a nursing home medication error attorney today.
Our firm has more than four decades of experience seeking justice for personal injury victims. In that 40 years, we’ve acquired a secret weapon in nursing home abuse that other firms don’t have. And that is Ernest Tosh. Tosh is a leading expert in nursing home abuse. He can help you navigate the difficult journey you will face when trying to recover damages for your loved one.
How is Medication Given to Nursing Home Residents
A nursing home medication error occurs when mistakes are made while giving medicine to residents. In most nursing home facilities, medication is given during “med pass”. Med pass is the term used to describe the process of nursing home staff dispensing medication to residents. A nurse will push a cart containing residents’ medication to give out to residents.
Typically, licensed nurses carry out med passes. However, some states will allow unlicensed staff members to provide medication as long as a nurse is supervising. Med passes, when done right, take about four to five hours to complete. In addition to giving the medication to residents, it can take several more hours to organize and document the administration of the medication.
Examples of Medication Errors
An array of medication errors can occur in nursing homes. The types of medication errors include:
- Splitting or cutting a pill.
- Failure to provide enough liquid with medications.
- Inadequate antacids or food with the medication.
- Failing to mix, shake or roll the medication.
- Giving medication with enteral nutrition formulas.
- Improperly administering eye drops.
- Having the resident swallow or chew medication meant for dissolving under the tongue.
The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention released an Index for Categorizing Medication Errors.
Common Nursing Home Medication Errors
The types of nursing home medications errors can vary. An example of a minor mistake is not giving a patient medication with a dose of medicine that requires it be taken with food. While these errors may carry small consequences, avoiding them is necessary for residents’ health. On the other end of the spectrum, more serious medication errors such as giving the wrong medicine to the wrong resident can lead to far more devastating consequences.
Studies have shown delayed or missed treatment or medication and the administration of the wrong dose or the wrong medication are the two most common medical mistakes made in the hospital setting. Studies also show that nursing home medication error occurrences are widely under-reported. It is estimated that only 1.5 percent of all nursing home medication errors are actually reported.
The most common negligent nursing home medication errors are as follows:
- Failing to check if the medication has expired.
- Giving too much medication.
- Giving too little or skipping a dose of medication.
- Using an incorrect med administration technique.
- Administering the medication at the wrong time or rate.
- Giving the wrong form of the medication, the wrong strength or the wrong medication altogether.
- Documenting the giving of the medication incorrectly.
- Failing to monitor the resident after giving the medication.
- Having a lab error.
- Following the wrong med pass routine.
Many patients are on a number of prescriptions and already have compromised physical health conditions. Understaffing worsens the risk of nursing home medication errors. If a nursing home medication error causes injury to a resident, they have the right to seek damages. Contact our firm to speak with nursing home medication error attorney right away.
Less Common Nursing Home Medication Errors
While the majority of medication errors are made because of mistakes, confusion and understaffing, there are some instances where nursing home staff intentionally ignore a doctor’s instructions for medication. The staff may instead improvise their own plan. Obviously intentional nursing home medication errors are grounds for a lawsuit. If a medication error happened to you or a loved one, contact our firm to speak to our leading nursing home medication error attorney.
The following are examples of possible nursing home medication malpractice:
- Dismissing or ignoring a doctor’s order. This type of medication error occurs any time a nursing home employee knowingly chooses to ignore a doctor’s order, packaging instruction or makes adjustments to a resident’s medication without documenting or receiving approval.
- Medication Mismanagement. This occurs when a medication is not available for a resident. For example, if a nursing home or long-term care facility fails, refuses or forgets to order medication for a resident.
- Medication Borrowing. This is exactly what it sounds like. Any time the nursing home takes a pill from one patient to give to another is medication borrowing. For instance, this can occur if an employee forgets to bring a resident’s medication during “med pass” and uses another patient’s pills instead.
- Stealing Medication: As prescription drug addiction rates rise, so does this kind of medication abuse. Taking medication from residents in nursing homes is becoming an increasingly effective way for people to fuel their addiction. Nursing home staff with addition problems may steal the pills for personal use or sale to others.
Overdosing, Underdosing and Prescribing
While the above examples are terrible practices that may happen in a nursing home, medication error does not always stem from delivering the wrong medication. Occasionally, injurious effects can occur when using medication wrong. By ingesting the wrong amount of medication, residents can experience a range of negative consequences.
Some of the most common mismanaged medications include:
- Blood Thinners
Most nursing home dosage errors are not criminal or malicious. All the same, nursing home medication errors are a result of negligence. Understaffed homes or overworked staff lead to these kinds of unfortunate mistakes. About 200,000 elderly adults are hospitalized annually in the U.S. because of adverse use of drugs. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services estimates 55 percent of elderly adults are non-compliant with their prescription drug orders. Both overmedication and under medication can lead to a serious problem for patients. These problems include:
- Chronic pain
- Worsening condition or slowed recovery
- New illnesses or medical complications
- Organ failure
- Exhaustion or a complete lack of energy
Other medication dosage errors include prescription mistakes and charting mistakes. For example, studies show that 30 percent of medication errors are because physicians failure to write prescriptions or specify dosages. Additionally, charting mistakes when caregivers do no document correctly. This is can lead to deadly consequences. After a shift change, a new caregiver may give a resident another dose leading to overdose before it’s time. Caregivers should also document any reactions or changes in dosages.
Medication as a Chemical Restraint
Although a majority of nursing home medication errors are unintentional, there are examples of intentional dosage errors. Often, overmedication is the result of a nursing home using medication as a chemical restraint. Nursing home staff may illegally use a chemical restraint on a patient deemed aggressive or otherwise difficult to deal with. Additionally, they may use chemical restraints on patients who are wanderers. The Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 prevents nursing home staff from using medication as a convenience.
The use of these drugs is particularly reprehensible because they are typically strong mind-altering drugs. These drugs include antipsychotics, dissociative anesthetics and benzodiazepines. Using these drugs in such an unethical manner can have devastating consequences for elderly nursing home residents. Because of chemical restraints, the patient may do any of the following:
- Become confused
- Become disoriented
- Be unable to carry out the tasks of daily living
- Become agitated
- Experience an overall decrease in quality of life
How Nursing Home Medication Error Attorney Can Help
Nursing home medication errors occur as a result of nursing home negligence. But you and your loved ones don’t have to suffer in silence. The Carlson Law Firm has a team of attorneys, investigators and nurses ready to help you get the justice you and your loved ones deserve. Our leading nursing home medication error attorney Ernest Tosh is an expert on holding nursing homes accountable. He has taken more than 150 cases to trial and recovered millions of dollars for the vulnerable elderly population and their families. If you want real accountability, contact our expert nursing home medication error attorney today.
If you believe that a loved one may be the victim of nursing home medication errors abuse you should take action quickly and contact us to set up a free consultation. An expert nursing home medication error attorney can help you recover damages. Our team of nursing home abuse experts can help you and your loved ones get the justice you deserve. Someone from our team is available to speak with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.