Prescription Medication Errors

Nursing Home Medication Errors

January 10, 2022 by James McHugh, Jr.
Nursing Home Medication Error

A nursing home can administer hundreds or even thousands of pills and other types of medication in a single day. Many nursing home residents require regular medications to keep them healthy. This means nursing home staff must keep up with scores of medications and dosages and there is no room for error. Unfortunately, an increasing number of nursing home residents suffer from the results of life-threatening medication errors.

Because of the high volume of patients in nursing homes, residents are at a higher risk of prescription medication errors, which are defined as preventable events that leads to inappropriate medication distribution or patient harm while the medication is in the hands of a healthcare professional. Prescription medication errors in nursing homes can cause devastating consequences for the residents, including death.

Types of Medication Errors in Nursing Homes Can Include:

  • Over or under-dosing the patient
  • Failing to provide the patient with all prescribed medications
  • Mixing up medications for patients
  • Providing expired medication
  • Failing to provide medication at the correct frequency
  • Failure to shake or mix medications that require mixing

Nursing homes have a responsibility to keep residents safe. When they administer incorrect medications or dosages, they need to be held accountable for their recklessness.

How Do Nursing Home Medication Errors Happen?

Most nursing homes administer large amounts of medication to a large number of residents at the same time. Because nursing home workers are handling such a large volume of medications, the likelihood of prescription medication errors is greatly increased. Special care has to be taken to ensure the right medication gets to the correct resident.

Another underlying factor of prescription medication errors in nursing homes is a high resident-to-staff ratio. Nursing home workers who are overwhelmed with a high number of patients are more likely to make mistakes. Ensuring nursing homes are properly staffed is one way to prevent nursing home medication errors.

Regardless of the method of administering medications or the resident-to-staff ratio, nursing homes must meet certain standards of care. Agencies like Medicare, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Center of Elder Abuse, and the Pennsylvania Department of Aging all ensure nursing homes uphold these standards of care. However, when nursing homes fail, they can and should be held responsible.

Important Dangers of Blood Thinners

While a variety of medication errors can occur in nursing homes, improperly administering blood thinners can cause some of the swiftest and severe side effects. According to the American Journal of Medicine, as many as 34,000 nursing home residents suffer injuries or death each year from improperly administered blood thinners.

Many nursing home residents are on blood thinners like Coumadin or Warfarin to help reduce their risk of stroke. While this class of medications has saved many lives, when administered incorrectly, it can cause fatal bleeding.

Blood thinners work by reducing the blood’s ability to clot. This helps prevent strokes by ensuring blood can always reach the brain; however, the dosage of a blood thinner is incredibly important. If a patient receives too much, they can suffer uncontrollable bleeding, but if they are given too little, they can suffer a stroke.

Additionally, staff overseeing patients taking blood thinners need to be aware of any potential drug interactions. For example, certain antibiotics can compound the effects of a blood thinner. Nursing homes need to be aware of exactly which medications, dosages, and possible interactions residents could face in order to avoid medication errors.

Overmedication of the Elderly Common and Dangerous

When we think about our elderly parents or even grandparents, when we place them in the care of a nursing home or long-term care facility, we believe they are being taken care of. We often don’t think they could be administered the wrong medications or be overly medicated for no reason. Unfortunately, in some cases that would be wrong.

Most of us trust healthcare providers to administer the medications our elderly parents and relatives require to treat their various medical conditions; however, it is not uncommon for medication intended for a temporary problem to be prescribed continuously. Your loved one can end up taking a medication he or she does not actually need with no one noticing.

Additionally, multiple specialists may see an aging patient, not communicate with each other, and invariably prescribe different medications that do the same thing. This results in overmedication, additional side effects, and even complications created by how these drugs interact with one another. This is because every medication you take comes with risks. The benefits are presumed to outweigh the risks, but sometimes there is little scrutiny of those risks until something bad happens.

Philadelphia Nursing Home Medication Error Attorneys

If you suspect your loved one suffered an injury or was killed due to a prescription medication error while in a nursing home, retain the professional services of a Philadelphia nursing home negligence who can confront those responsible in a court of law. We can analyze your situation and help you understand your legal options. Compensation can help pay for your loved one’s medical bills, pain and suffering, and other expenses. If you or a loved one has been a victim of medical malpractice, contact the experienced trial attorneys at Lopez McHugh today for a free case evaluation.

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