One of the most common issues in nursing homes is the problem of medication errors. A medication error occurs anytime a patient is not given the medication they are prescribed by their physician in the correct amount, at the correct time, and using the correct method.
Here’s what to know about nursing home medication errors and if you should contact a nursing home abuse attorney if your loved one was harmed by a medication mistake in a long-term care facility.
How Drugs Are Administered In Nursing Homes
In the majority of nursing homes, medicine is administered during a “med pass.” A med pass is the practice of administering medication to nursing home patients in accordance with their physician’s orders.
When completing a med pass, a licensed nurse normally utilizes a special cart with locking drawers to distribute the prescriptions between patients. The nurse goes from room to room, or in some cases between common areas where patients may be lounging, to administer medicines.
This may be done multiple times per day. In addition to the time it takes to actually make the med pass, it may take several additional hours to prepare and organize the medications and accurately chart each patient’s dose.
Possible Nursing Home Medication Errors
Giving a Contraindicated Medication
Nursing home staff are responsible for ensuring that contraindicated medications are not given. This means that patients aren’t given medications they are allergic to or medicines that interact negatively with other drugs they are taking.
Crushing the Wrong Medications
Some medications are time-release and must be swallowed whole in order to be effective. This can present a challenge for patients who have difficulty swallowing pills. A nurse or facility aide may crush a pill and put it into a patient’s food or drink to try to get them to take the medicine, but this may not be appropriate in some cases and could cause inefficacy or worse, overdose.
Long-term care facility nurses are responsible for ensuring that all patients receive the medications they are prescribed by their doctors at the appropriate times and in the appropriate doses. Missing a patient during a med pass or not giving a patient their prescription for some other reason constitutes a medication error.
Some facilities will overmedicate patients with prescription drugs like antipsychotics or benzodiazepines to make them more compliant or easier to take care of. This is known as chemical restraint and in addition to being a medication error, it’s also considered a cruel form of nursing home abuse. In cases where a nurse simply made a mistake and gave a patient too much medicine by accident, the facility may still be held accountable.
Improper Monitoring of Patients After Administering Medication
Nursing home staff must adequately monitor patients after administering medication to ensure that patients don’t choke or have an adverse reaction. This is particularly important when a patient has been prescribed a new medication and its effects aren’t yet known. However, nursing homes often fail to provide this monitoring due to short staffing and a high patient-to-nurse ratio.
Reasons for Medication Errors In Nursing Homes
- Illegible handwriting on prescription orders
- Wrong diagnosis and administration of a drug for the wrong condition
- Mathematical errors when calculating dosage
- Inadequate communication between doctors and nursing staff
- Confusion between two similarly named medications
- Distraction when measuring or administering medication
- Failure to discontinue medications with harmful side effects
How To Know If a Loved One Is the Victim of a Medication Error
Some indicators that your loved one may be the victim of a medication error include but are not limited to:
- Excessive drowsiness or the appearance of inebriation
- More anxiousness or irritability than usual
- Difficulty walking or displaying poor coordination
- New or worsening health issues
- Sudden allergic reaction, including but not always anaphylactic shock
- A new rash or redness on the skin
- The return of once-managed medical symptoms or conditions
- Complaining of nursing home staff making medication errors
- Wrongful death
A Compassionate Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Can Help You
At Mazow | McCullough, PC, we know how devastating it is to know that your loved one has been improperly cared for in a nursing home. We’re committed to providing comprehensive legal representation to families with loved ones in nursing homes in New Hampshire and Massachusetts and can help you navigate getting justice for your elderly family member.
Contact us today to get answers to your important questions or to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss your case. Call now to speak with our team at (978) 744-8000 or toll-free at (855) 693-9084.