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What Are the Different Kinds of Medication Errors in Phoenix Nursing Homes?

Deciding to place a loved one into a nursing home or assisted living facility is one of the most difficult decisions family members face. When an elderly spouse, parent, or grandparent requires the type of skilled, full-time care that isn’t attainable or feasible at home, family members carefully research to find the best possible nursing home within their financial capabilities. When family members trust a beloved elderly loved one to the care of professionals in a nursing home, they have a right to expect skilled, compassionate care from the providers to protect their elderly loved one’s safety, health, and dignity. When a caregiver in a nursing home makes a medication mistake while providing care, the results to the aging family member are often serious or deadly.

Family members who seek adequate residential care for their aging loved ones commonly ask, “What kinds of medication mistakes occur in nursing homes, what are the impacts, and how should these facilities prevent them?” Contact a Phoenix nursing home abuse lawyer to seek justice.

Medication Mistakes are a Form of Negligence

An estimated 27 percent of nursing home residents experience one or more medication mistakes each year and studies suggest these numbers are undereported. Medical professionals and care providers owe a special duty of care toward nursing home residents. They must treat the resident at the standard of care considered acceptable by the medical community. Breaching this duty of care by failing to give a resident the proper medication or a proper dosage is medical malpractice. Depending on how the mistake occurred, the injury to the resident could warrant a medical malpractice or nursing home negligence case, leaving the nursing home, medical practitioner, or pharmacist liable for damages like medical costs and pain and suffering. If the mistake results in a loved one’s death, family members may make a nursing home wrongful death claim.

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What Types of Medication Errors Occur in Nursing Homes?

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are commonly understaffed, leading to fatigued and overworked caregivers and frequent disruptions and distractions. Fast staff turnover rates and negligent staff training may cause dangerous or deadly medication mistakes. The following errors commonly result in medical malpractice or nursing home negligence claims:

  • Administering the wrong medication
  • Administering the wrong dosage
  • Giving medication at the wrong time
  • Giving medication to the wrong patient
  • Skipping doses
  • Incorrect administration of medication (such as having a patient swallow a sublingual medication)
  • Administering expired medication
  • Overdosing
  • Over-prescribing sedatives
  • Improperly documenting administered doses
  • Disregarding patient histories
  • Administering contraindicated medications or medication to a patient with an allergy to that medication
  • Transcription errors- or a mistake in transcribing a patient’s correct prescription or dosage
  • An attending physician makes a misdiagnosis and prescribes a medication that’s incorrect for the patient’s condition

Administration mistakes, dosing errors, and timing errors are the most common causes of medication mistakes in nursing homes. Physical, mental, and emotional symptoms can result from common medication errors causing injury to members of the vulnerable elderly population.

How Do Dangerous Medication Mistakes Occur in Nursing Homes?

Elderly individuals commonly have multiple chronic health conditions requiring precise medication regimens. Many aging seniors are also cognitively impaired and unable to discern changes in their medications or unable to express themselves if they are aware of a mistake.

Studies show that human error and technical deficiencies cause most medication mistakes in nursing homes. When deficient hiring practices and poor caregiver management result in an injury to a nursing home resident, the staff is liable for damages to the victim and their family. Nursing home managers and administrations have a responsibility to provide staff with the appropriate tools to facilitate safe medication administration. Medication mistakes in nursing homes commonly result from the following:

  • Delegating medication administration to non-licensed caregivers and staff
  • Deviating from routines
  • Poor organization and record-keeping
  • Lack of communication between staff members
  • Disruptions or distractions during medication administration
  • Failing to monitor residents to ensure they take their medication
  • Inadequate record-keeping
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Inadequate staff training on devices for medical record-keeping

Crowded conditions, overworked staff, and frequent disruptions and distractions in the nursing home setting all contribute to the alarming rate of medication errors in these facilities.

Medication Theft In Nursing Homes

Research studies reveal that in addition to medication errors, there are also an alarming number of cases of nursing home residents receiving over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen rather than their prescribed pain medications or simply never receiving their medication at all. In these cases, one or more nursing home staff members pocket the prescription pain medications to take for themselves, give to family members, or illegally sell them.

An alarming 94 percent of stolen medications in nursing homes are opioid pain medications. When a nursing home employee steals medication, the elderly nursing home resident suffers from increased pain. Terminally ill patients receiving palliative care are often on continued high doses of pain medications to keep them comfortable. When a staff member withholds their prescribed medication for illegal purposes the vulnerable elderly resident may experience withdrawal symptoms that add to their pain and suffering.

When on-duty nursing home staff members take opioid medications not prescribed to them, they may be significantly impaired while providing care.

Preventing Medication Mistakes in Nursing Homes

Because many elderly nursing home residents have age-related cognitive deficits and rely on staff to correctly administer complex medication regimens, they often are not able to monitor their medications or report changes or symptoms. Visiting family members may not attribute changes in their loved one’s health condition or mental state to the medications they’ve received or missed.

It’s the duty of the nursing home administrators and staff to safeguard residents by developing and maintaining a safe, reliable system for administering, reporting, and tracking medications. Nursing homes can reduce instances of medication errors by doing the following:

  • Improve hiring practices to ensure only qualified professional caregivers are on staff
  • Provide regular staff training for proper medication administration and record-keeping
  • Provide ongoing training on medication preparation, administering medications, and noting and reporting adverse reactions
  • Regularly reviewing patient histories, especially for new patients
  • Reporting and flagging any discrepancies
  • Increasing staff members and reducing workloads to minimize staff fatigue
  • Reduce disruptions and distractions during medication administration
  • Improve communication methods between staff members and during shift changes

Nursing home administrators have a duty of care toward their residents that includes taking all necessary precautions to avoid dangerous medication errors.

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The personal injury attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona, at Knapp & Roberts have the compassion and trial lawyer skills to tell your story to a jury. We will get to know you and your family so that we can help the jury understand what has happened to you and your family and how it has changed your lives. Obtain the compensation necessary for the injuries and losses you have suffered.