Many of us have loved ones in nursing homes. In addition to providing daily care, these facilities administer many different medications to their patients. Medication administration is a little different in nursing homes than in other settings since these facilities deal with live-in residents.
In many ways, this makes it easier to ensure that patients aren‘t subjected to medication problems, but medication errors occur nonetheless.
Often, these mistakes pertain to inadequacies in medication monitoring, and according to the Medication Error Quality Initiative (MEQI), they‘re often preventable. When preventable medication errors do occur and a loved one suffers serious personal injuries or wrongful death, you should consult with an attorney to determine if you have a possible claim for nursing home negligence and/or medical malpractice.
How Do Medication Errors Affect Nursing Home Patients?
According to the MEQI, most of the errors that occur in nursing homes fall into two “less serious categories.” In many cases, the medication errors did not reach the patient–in other words, the patient never took the medication. In other cases, the medication error did not harm the patient–in other words, the patient took the medication, but the error was not significant enough to cause an injury. In most nursing home cases, these two types of errors typically account for more than 90% of all medication mistakes.
However, some medication errors can cause serious injuries and even death, and it‘s important to know what leads to these kinds of mistakes.
What Causes These Errors?
For the majority of medication errors, the MEQI attributes them to human factors. These include basic human error, simple mistakes, forgetting, overlooking orders, carelessness, and lack of oversight. In these situations, the medication errors were preventable.
Similar to a hospital setting, a nursing home has medical personnel in various departments. These include physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians. In nursing homes, errors across these areas deal primarily with dose omission. This includes overdoses, under doses, forgotten doses, wrong doses, and extra doses. In fact, 75% of all reported nursing home medication errors related to dose omission.
According to the nonprofit group Nursing Home Families, the majority of fatal and serious medication errors from dosage omission concern “adverse consequences.” This refers to situations in which a detail about the patient‘s medical condition, medical and prescription history along with other concurrent medications lead to an adverse reaction with a medication that they‘ve been prescribed. An important factor to keep in mind is that many nursing home residents are more susceptible to adverse consequences from medication errors, since many of these elderly patients are already taking a number of other long-term medications.
How Can Medication Errors be Prevented?
While errors can occur in any of the medical departments associated with nursing homes, all areas are specifically tasked with the important act of monitoring. Monitoring includes continuous observation of patients to: 1) ascertain their responses to treatment, 2) detect complications or adverse consequences, and 3) support their decisions concerning modifying or discontinuing specific medication use.
The pharmacy department has a specific task, which is called a “medication regimen review.” This should consist of a pharmacist‘s “thorough evaluation” of a patient‘s medication regimen in order to prevent, identify, report, and resolve any medication errors or other irregularities in the patient‘s treatment.
Since nursing home residents live at the facility where they receive medications and other care, there‘s a special burden on health-care providers to closely monitor each patient‘s medication record. When medication records are adequately monitored, studies show that dose omission and related adverse consequences significantly decrease.
Do Not Delay if a Loved One has Been Harmed by Nursing Home Medication Errors!
These cases can be complex and there are unique requirements and deadlines associated with these claims. If you or a loved one has been negatively affected by a nursing home medication error, it is advisable to immediately seek the assistance of an attorney experienced in nursing home negligence and medical malpractice claims to make sure that your rights are protected.