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09/27/22   |   By

Seven Common Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

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Nursing homes take care of our society’s most vulnerable members. The elderly and permanently disabled may reside in these facilities. Like other health care facilities, nursing homes can be hotspots for medical mistakes.

In nursing homes, medication errors are one of the most common types of mistakes made by staff members. Seven common medication errors in nursing homes include:

  • Providing patients with the wrong medications. This type of mistake may occur for several reasons. For instance, a Assorted pills and pill blister packsnurse may confuse medications with similar names.
  • Prescribing the wrong dosage. Nurses may give patients too little or too much medication. As a result, patients may not receive treatment for a condition. Patients can also overdose.
  • Ignoring patient medical histories. Certain medications may trigger an allergic reaction. A patient’s medical history could mention allergies to specific medications. If this information is ignored by the pharmacy or physician and the medication is provided, a patient could suffer an allergic reaction.
  • Providing medications that should not be taken together. Certain medications cannot be taken together. For instance, mixing an SSRI (an antidepressant) with an MAO inhibitor (also an antidepressant) can lead to serotonin syndrome, a potentially fatal condition.
  • Improperly administering medications. Nurses may incorrectly provide the medication to patients. For instance, a nurse may provide a medication to a patient at the incorrect time.
  • Failing to provide medication. There are cases where nursing home staff do not provide medication to patients. As a result, patients may go without treatment. In cases involving nursing home abuse, medication may be intentionally withheld from patients.
  • Improper preparation. Some medications need to be prepared a specific way. Patients could be harmed when pharmacists make mistakes while preparing medications.

Learn more about these seven common medication errors in nursing homes.

Providing Patients with the Wrong Medications

Be it an oversight when getting medication from the pharmacy, or searching for medication and getting it mixed up with another by a similar name when patients are given the wrong medication, the result can be catastrophic.

Consider the case of Tennessee nurse RaDonda Vaught, who was tried for the death of Charlene Murphey, a 75-year-old patient who died after she was prescribed a sedative but was accidentally injected with a paralyzer by a similar name.

Vought was found guilty of criminally negligent homicide and gross neglect of an impaired adult and sentenced to three years probation. She was also stripped of her nursing license.

This is not the first, nor likely the last medication error that will happen in a nursing home or another medical facility.

Prescribing the Wrong Dosage

Studies have suggested that 28.1 percent of medication errors are those where a nurse or medical provider has given the wrong dosage of medication to a patient. Unfortunately, when a patient is not following a medical order, either by their own doing or that of a caretaker, the result could lead to worsening of the initial medical condition, death, and increased medical costs at the burden of the patient and their family.

If you suspect that a loved one is not getting enough medication or not getting a proper dosage, it is imperative to reach out to a nursing home neglect attorney who can guide you through the process of filing a claim against the negligent medical facility.

Ignoring Patient Medical Histories

We’ve all been to doctors’ appointments where we’re asked to fill out an extensive medical history including current medication usage, family history, surgical procedures, and allergies.

These extensive documents are utilized to help medical providers give proper treatment for new conditions, or on continuing care for pre-existing conditions. However, when a nursing home, doctor, nurse, etc. does not review these patient medical histories and a loved one gets sicker or dies, there should be repercussions.

Providing Medications That Should Not Be Taken Together

When you get a new prescription filled, you’re likely given a piece of paper that explains any side effects that can be expected with the medication. However, it’s also expected that your medical providers will be looking at the potential drug interactions that could occur when adding in a new medication.

But when a provider gives a patient a medication that should not be taken with an already prescribed drug, and family members voice these concerns, and nothing is done to review the medications, then something happens to the patient, justice is possible.

Improperly Administering Medications

There are certain guidelines patients and care providers must adhere to when taking or giving medication. Unfortunately, when there are staff shortages, overcrowding in nursing homes, and simply not enough resources to go around, this can lead to patients suffering.

When a patient is not given medication at the proper time, it can lead to delays in care and overlap with other medications that may not be most effective when taken together.

Failing To Provide Medication

While there are times when a medical provider or caretaker may not administer a medication dosage at the right time, there are also times when a nursing home resident may not be given their medication at all.

Unfortunately, these forms of nursing home abuse are all too common, but difficult to prove without the proper legal representation. If you suspect that a loved one is not given their medication as a form of medical abuse, contact Regan Zambri Long.

Improper Preparation

Not all medications come ready to be given. Some require preparation, mixing, or being given intravenously. However, when a patient is not properly given their medication, it can result in the medication being ineffective or even dangerous.

Further, if patients have specific nutritional needs, are unable to swallow, and are not given their medications in a way that works within those limitations, they can sustain serious and even fatal injuries.

What Are the Most Common Causes Of Medication Errors?

While several common medication errors occur in nursing homes, many of these are caused by preventable issues within the nursing home itself. Common causes of medication errors in nursing homes and other medical facilities include:

  • Distraction: It’s not uncommon for a nurse to serve multiple roles to multiple patients at one time. In one second, they are administering medication, the next they are redressing wounds, providing transport, or aiding a patient with sanitary needs. Unfortunately, this is not just with one patient–that same nurse may be taking care of multiple patients in one shift. This can lead to distraction–alarms sounding, call bells ringing, families phoning in for updates– all of which can hurt the patient. While this is a staffing issue, the blame often gets placed on the single care provider before the entire facility.
  • nursing checking on a patient's heartbeatEnvironment: Just like being overworked can lead to distraction and medical error, so too can the physical environment of the nursing home that the care provider must work in. Poor lighting, lack of heat or air conditioning, cleanliness, etc. can all put a medical provider in a position that leads to medical error.
  • Lack of knowledge: With so many new drugs and medical technologies on the market, it’s not uncommon for someone in a medical care provider role to be faced with new obstacles that have limited knowledge and understanding of. With this lack of knowledge and on-the-go learning, the result can be fatal to the patient.
  • Incomplete patient information: We know that patients’ medical histories are important and when they are ignored, can lead to serious medication errors. However, when a provider fails to take complete patient information down, the next medical provider to come in and take care of that patient may make a fatal error.
  • Systemic problems within the nursing home: It seems that much of the blame for medication errors in nursing homes is placed on nurses, however, the reality is that many, if not most of these errors are a result of systemic issues within the nursing home facility itself. Be it a lack of medication organization, no scanning system, or no formal reporting system in place, nurses are placed in difficult situations and patients suffer as a result.

Who Can Be Held Liable for a Medication Error in a Nursing Home?

misdiagnosisIf you or a loved one suffered injury, illness, or death as a result of a medication error in a nursing home, know that you have options to seek financial recovery for your losses and pain. However, to secure that compensation, you first need to establish who is at fault for the medication error and resulting illness, injury, or death.

Parties who may be held liable for a medication error in a nursing home include:

  • The doctor who prescribed the medication: Doctors have an obligation to provide the necessary medication and treatment plan that suits the individual patient’s needs and medical history. However, if a doctor is negligent in reviewing patient history, not taking into account the risks and interactions of the new medication with other drugs, or does not act in a reasonable standard of care, the doctor can be held liable for the medication error.
  • Nurses and other care providers: If proper medication is prescribed, but there were negligent errors in the administration of a medication, or a complete lack of administration of the drug, the nurse or other care provider can be held at fault.
  • The nursing home: Be it the facility itself, the maintenance of the building, or the lack of systems in place to protect patients and their employees, the nursing home can be held liable for any patient injuries, illness, or death.
  • The pharmacists: We expect our pharmacists to handle the fulfillment of medication with the utmost care. However, if a medication is not given properly, or an incorrect drug is given in a prescription, the pharmacist can be held liable.
  • Drug manufacturers: If a drug manufacturer is negligent in handling the processing and manufacturer of a drug and patients get sick or die, they can be held liable.

Can I File a Lawsuit for a Nursing Home Medication Mistake?

There may be legal options to recover compensation for nursing home medication mistakes. Like hospitals, medical malpractice can also occur in these facilities.

You should speak to a Washington DC medical negligence lawyer at Regan Zambri Long PLLC if your loved one was harmed while receiving care in a nursing home. Our attorneys could discuss whether you have options to recover compensation for an injury or loss.

How Can Regan Zambri Long Help Me In My Nursing Home Abuse Case?

Nursing home abuse cases can be complicated, especially when it comes to medication errors. Without definitive timelines, it can be hard to prove what went wrong and by whose hand. However, this doesn’t mean you don’t have options to seek justice.

If you or a loved one were a victim of a nursing home medication error, Regan Zambri Long will work tirelessly to ensure that negligence is proven and that your losses and injuries are properly calculated so you get the compensation you deserve. Be it in insurance claims, or if the case needs to go to court, our medical malpractice attorneys and nursing home abuse lawyers are here to provide the legal guidance you need to recover from this horrific event.

For a no-obligation, free consultation, contact Regan Zambri Long at 202-960-4596 or connect with us online.

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