Nursing home residents may need to take some sort of medication. While nursing home facilities should have stringent protocols that employees and management must follow for medication distribution to their elderly residents, unfortunately, medication errors in nursing homes still occur. In fact, studies published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society show that over 25% of nursing home residents are victims of medication errors resulting in hospitalization and death. Most of the time, medication errors prove entirely preventable and occur as the result of negligent actions of the nursing home staff, management, attending physician, or pharmacy. Understanding the types of medication errors that occur and your elderly loved one’s rights can help you determine the next course of action for you and your family member.
Types of Medication Errors
Medication errors can occur either in the preparation or the distribution of medications to elderly residents in nursing homes. A medication error could contradict a physician’s orders, the drug manufacturer’s instructions regarding preparation, or the professionally accepted protocols regarding the administration and distributions of medicines in a nursing home.
The following represent some ways a medication error can occur in the preparation and distribution of medications to a nursing home resident:
- A physician prescribed the incorrect medication or the wrong dosage for the resident.
- A physician fails to check for any interactions with any other medications the resident is currently taking.
- The nursing home staff, management, or pharmacy distributes the wrong medication entirely or the wrong dosage amount to the nursing home resident.
- The nursing home staff administers the medication incorrectly or does not provide the required food or water needed to accompany the medication.
- A pharmacist or manufacturer mislabels medications.
- A caregiver commits medication preparation errors, including crushing, mixing, rolling, or slicing medication incorrectly
- A caregiver fails to properly explain how to take a sublingual tablet, causing a patient to swallow it instead.
- A caregiver or pharmacist distributes medication after its expiration date.
- The nursing home staff does not distribute the medication in a timely manner.
- The nursing home staff or physician does not properly check lab results for residents and adjust medications accordingly.
- The nursing home staff “borrow” medications from one nursing home resident to give to another when medication supplies run low.
Medication errors can result in consequences ranging from minor to deadly, according to the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.
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Preventing Medication Errors
Every nursing home should have a system that operates between the physicians, nursing home staff, and pharmacy to ensure the prevention of medication errors. In many cases, having connected and integrated computer systems throughout the nursing home staff and pharmacy can provide consistent and accurate communications regarding the medications for elderly residents.
Often, nursing homes may utilize automated dispensing systems for uniform and consistent medication distribution. All nursing home staff members should be adequately trained in a similar way to ensure consistency regarding medications. The preparation and distribution of medication should receive inspection on a routine basis. Every medication provided to a nursing home resident should include the right dosage and be administered at the correct time.
Results of Medication Errors
A report conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that preventable deaths among the five leading causes of death (i.e., unintentional injuries) are rising in the United States.
The elderly remain more susceptible to catastrophic consequences as a result of medication errors. If a nursing home staff member ignores an order from a physician, practices poor medication management, borrows medicine from one resident to give to another, or exhibits any other negligent behavior with respect to medication that results in a medication error, it can lead to severe injuries or death.
If your elderly loved one suffered an injury as a result of a medication error, you may have the right to file a medical malpractice claim against the attending physician, the nursing home staff, the owner(s) of the nursing home facility, or the nursing home’s pharmacy.
Building a strong medical malpractice case can take time. The state of Illinois imposes a time limit on any type of claim against a nursing home such as medical malpractice, negligence, or wrongful death.
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If your elderly loved one suffered an injury or died from a medication error in a nursing home due to the negligence of the staff, a physician, or the pharmacy department, contact Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 201-3999 to help you determine your legal rights.