The last thing that a person wants to worry about when they admit a loved one into a nursing home is the possibility of abuse through medication. There are several types of nursing home abuse that involve medication, and it is important to be aware of them to be able to identify and stop this practice.
Many common forms of abuse in nursing homes are related to medication and its administration to the resident, all of which constitutes negligence with potential legal liability. Sometimes patients may be overmedicated, receive medication in the wrong dosage, or be given the wrong medication. In other cases, food and medication allergies are overlooked due to the negligent failure to communicate among staff members regarding medication.
Overmedication, sometimes also referred to as chemical restraint, is often an intentional form of abuse. Overmedication occurs when nursing home staff provides patients with non-prescribed medication or higher doses of prescribed medication in order to pacify the patient. This of course makes the jobs of nursing home staff easier since they need provide little care to incapacitated patients.
Several studies show that an alarming number of nursing homes use chemical restraint to control unruly or problematic patients. In 2010, a California nursing home director was charged with providing anti-psychotic drugs to difficult patients, resulting in the death of three residents. According to the FDA, an estimated 15,000 nursing home residents die each year as a result of unnecessary and off-label use of anti-psychotic medication.
In other cases, the nursing home staff gives residents the wrong medication. This is usually unintentional and the product of understaffing and failure to train and keep accurate records. This practice can cause several serious complications for the patient that may even lead to death.
Administration of the wrong medication presents several dangers. On the one hand, when a patient is given the wrong medication, he or she is not being treated for the condition that they have, and on the other hand, the medication they are being given may harmfully interact with other drugs.
Many cases involving medication entail negligent documentation and communication among staff members. In certain cases, staff members fail to chart the administration of medication causing repeat dosing. In other cases, staff document giving a patient medication when in fact they did not. In still other cases, there is a failure in documenting all of the medications given to a patient, causing harmful drug interactions. Finally, all the medications may be perfectly documented yet the potential serious and sometimes life threatening interactions may be ignored.
If you suspect that a love one is being overmedicated, being given an incorrect medication, given the wrong dosage, exposed to dangerous interactions, over-medicated or otherwise suffering from medication errors, you should address the situation immediately with the nursing home administration.
The first step is to ask to see medication logs and order blood tests. Unfortunately, the next step is often contacting an attorney. This is often the only thing that will get the facility‘s attention. The New Mexico Attorney General‘s Elder Abuse Division is a good place to start. If your loved one has been harmed by medication errors, it may then be time to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.