Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

Published on Sep 1, 2023 at 10:47 pm in Nursing Home Abuse.

Medication Errors in Nursing Homes
A medication error happens when a drug is improperly administered, or a doctor’s or manufacturer’s instructions are not followed. Medication errors in nursing homes happen far too often.

Key Takeaways:

  • Medication errors in nursing homes can seriously harm or cause the death of residents.
  • A medication error can be a wide range of negligent or deliberate actions. Many errors come from miscommunication, failure to follow instructions, or simple carelessness.
  • Studies have found that most medication errors in nursing homes are preventable.
  • A person who suffers a preventable drug error has legal rights. A nursing home abuse lawyer can help you explore options.

Whether a nurse gives a resident the wrong medication or uses expired pills, an elderly resident can be seriously injured or even lose their life. If you or someone you love was hurt because a nursing home staff member was negligent in administering medication, you don’t have to suffer the consequences in silence.

Talk to a nursing home abuse attorney at our Marion, IL law office to learn how to proceed after an injury caused by a medication error. Prince Law Firm provides free case evaluations to those who have been hurt in Illinois nursing homes.

Examples of Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

“Medication error” is a broad term. It can be any action that prevents a patient from receiving the medicine they have been prescribed by a doctor, in the correct dose, at the right time, and in the way intended by the manufacturer.

Some of the most common medication errors in nursing homes are:

  • Giving the wrong medication
  • Giving drugs to the wrong patient
  • Failing to administer medications in the right dose, strength, or frequency
  • Skipping doses
  • Not keeping accurate records of a patient’s medications
  • Administering medications at the wrong time
  • Cutting or crushing pills that shouldn’t be split
  • Using expired medications
  • Misreading a prescription from a doctor
  • Ignoring a doctor’s directions
  • Not following drug instructions, such as administering with food or on an empty stomach
  • Incorrectly mixing medications
  • Failing to shake or stir liquid medications
  • Miscommunication among staff (or between doctors/hospitals and the nursing home) that result in a resident not receiving the proper medication in the correct dosage
  • Not following proper procedures for eye drops, suppositories, creams, sublingual (under-the-tongue) medications, IV drugs, or medications given through a feeding tube
  • Not monitoring a patient for reactions or allergies to a new drug

A 2007 study conducted on 25 nursing homes determined that the most common medication errors in nursing homes were dose omission (32%), overdose (14%), underdose (7%), wrong patient (6%), wrong product (6%), and wrong strength (6%).

The Problem of Overmedication in Elder Care Facilities

Overmedicating (or the use of “chemical restraints”) is a form of abuse by which nursing home staff members work to subdue patients with strong medications. Using any medication to alter resident behavior, without a medical reason for its use, is illegal. And it is extremely harmful to patients.

In 1987, the Nursing Home Reform Law first listed freedom from chemical restraints as a legal right, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and state-level legislators have since created regulations to protect elderly residents, particularly dementia patients, from the use of overmedication as a control device. For example, the statute in Illinois states that “Except in the case of an emergency, psychotropic medication shall not be administered without the informed consent of the resident or the resident’s surrogate decision maker.”

But overmedication still goes on in many nursing homes across the country. Beyond merely a medication error, overmedication is a serious problem that robs an elder of their rights, freedom, and dignity—and often puts their physical health at risk as well.

How Medication Errors in Nursing Homes Put Residents at Risk

Nursing homes exist to care for individuals with the highest level of need. However, there are relatively few doctors involved in the care of nursing home residents. The task of administering daily medications for a range of serious issues residents suffer falls on the hands of nursing staff—and many states allow drug-administering duties to be undertaken by staff who are not licensed nurses.

It is a great responsibility to provide life-sustaining medicines to vulnerable adults. There’s a lot that can go wrong, especially when staff don’t take the gravity and importance of their duties seriously.

A year-long research study on adverse drug events in 18 nursing homes found evidence that medication errors were more common than once believed, and largely preventable. The study also showed the seriousness of drug mistakes to the health and well-being of residents:

  • One mistake was the direct cause of a resident’s death
  • 6% of medication errors were life-threatening
  • 38% of errors were considered serious
  • 56% were significant, in some way affecting the patient’s health
  • 51% of medication errors in nursing homes were found to be preventable

Furthermore, the patients with the most health issues were at the highest risk of being hurt by a medication error. It is the most vulnerable who suffer the most when nursing home staff members are negligent.

What To Do if You or a Loved One Was the Victim of a Medication Error

Depending on the error or willful actions of the nursing home staff, you or a loved one’s adverse drug event may be the result of negligence or criminal conduct. If you or someone you love was hurt by a medication error in a nursing home, you need a qualified nursing home abuse attorney who can review your situation and advise you of your rights.

You may be entitled to financial recovery that covers the costs of further medical treatment and moving to a new facility. A lawyer can go over your legal options and how you can best move forward toward health and safety. We will also help facilitate the reporting of your event to the proper authorities, and make sure that the care facility is held accountable for its harmful actions, preventing further instances of negligence or abuse against residents.

To speak with an experienced legal representative who can make sure your family receives justice, contact Prince Law Firm today. You can reach out to schedule a free consultation over the phone or on our website.



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