Patients in nursing homes are often elderly or ill and require careful monitoring to ensure their medications are properly administered. When something goes wrong, there could be many potential parties at fault. Discovering who is responsible for medication errors in a nursing home can be challenging.
Nursing home residents face more risks than ever before due to many causes. When you are unsure whether your loved one has experienced a medical error with their prescription medicines, it’s time to discuss the situation with a Memphis medication error attorney.
Current Conditions in Nursing Homes: Overloaded and Understaffed
A National Institutes of Health report lists over 39 million people in the United States are over the age of 65, with nearly 6 million people over 85. As families are squeezed into a “sandwich” situation, their older relatives may need to enter nursing homes to ensure proper care. However, the increase in residents is happening at the same time that facilities are experiencing much lower staffing levels than ever before.
With fewer people to manage the care for nursing home residents, conditions are ripe for medication errors to occur. The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reports that nearly 27% of patients in these facilities in the U.S. suffer medication mistakes that lead to illness, adverse events, complications, and death.
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Common Medication Mistakes in Nursing Homes
Staff members and healthcare providers who are overworked and exhausted can make mistakes. In some situations, nursing homes hire people who are not fully trained or licensed to manage medication distribution. There are many common mistakes even an experienced nurse or provider can make, including:
- Administering expired, outdated, or contraindicated medicines
- Administering the medication without food or water when indicated
- Failing to give a large enough dose
- Failing to monitor the patient after giving medicine
- Giving medication to the wrong patient
- Giving the wrong strength of a drug or at the wrong rate (such as through an IV)
- Giving too much of a drug or giving it too frequently
- Neglecting to give the medication
- Not documenting the medication’s dosage, time, or that it was given
- Not storing or preparing medicines correctly
When caregivers are in a rush to manage multiple patients and their needs, they may skip steps to verify information for each person. They may also be so busy with other tasks that they miss giving patients drugs when needed. For those with conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, the consequences can be extremely detrimental and may even cause death.
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Common Causes of Medication Mistakes
A medication error happens as a result of a preventable event leading to the inappropriate use of a drug. These mistakes fall under the umbrella of medical malpractice, although some states deem them medical negligence when there was no malicious intent to cause harm.
In most situations, medication errors in nursing homes happen because a person makes a mistake. It’s usually avoidable, but this doesn’t lessen their responsibility for the harm your loved one suffers. In addition to staff and medical providers, there are others who could have contributed to the problem, such as manufacturers, distributors, designers, and retailers.
For example, common causes of medication mistakes include:
- Poor research or design of the drug
- Defective manufacturing
- Insufficient or incorrect instructions for administering or using the medication
- Mistakes when the drug was entered into the nursing home’s inventory
- Dispensing mistakes in the facility’s pharmacy
- Inaccurate diagnosis by medical providers
- Miscommunication between doctors and staff
A single mistake in administering a drug may not have long-term effects, but if it’s the wrong drug at the wrong time for the wrong purpose, the patient could have an allergic reaction that causes death. Regardless of what happens or why, a skilled lawyer can investigate and gather evidence demonstrating how the liable parties had a duty of care for the patients and neglected that duty in some way.
Linking the patient’s injuries, illness, damages, or death directly to the at-fault party’s negligence is crucial to successfully securing compensation. Your attorney can help you gather evidence showing who contributed to the mistake and strengthen your insurance claim or medical negligence lawsuit.
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What to Do When You Suspect a Medication Error in a Nursing Home
If you discover a medication error has affected your family member in a nursing home, you should speak with the supervisor, manager, or owner of the facility as soon as possible. Ask for documentation about the patient’s prescriptions and medication records. If you believe negligence is to blame, it’s a good idea to schedule a consultation with an attorney.
If you believe the actions are significant and worthy of further scrutiny, you could file actions such as:
- Registering a complaint with local law enforcement
- Filing a complaint with the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability.
- Investigating and filing a claim against the nursing home’s insurance policy
- Filing a medical malpractice claim against the healthcare providers
- Initiating a civil lawsuit against the facility and anyone who contributed to the medication error
If medication errors are common in your loved one’s nursing home, notifying the authorities could save the lives of other residents. It may also result in the facility being investigated by oversight agencies that can take government action to correct the problem. At best, the staff may need retraining or an increase in the number of employees to avoid errors by overworked individuals.
Get an ISMP Review
As an additional measure of precaution, you can contact the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) for an independent review of a suspected medication error. This can provide further valuable evidence for your claim or lawsuit if they find that a mistake occurred. Your attorney can determine how to relate the findings to specific actions or liable parties.
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Get Help When You Suspect a Medication Error in a Nursing Home
Medication errors in nursing homes can result when a nurse misreads the doctor’s handwriting and administers the wrong drug or dosage. If the physician fails to review the patient’s medical history, they may prescribe a drug that makes things worse. Regardless of why your loved one experienced a mistake in their medications, they deserve justice.
At Gatti, Keltner, Bienvenu & Montesi, PLC, we stand ready to listen to your story and help you decide how to proceed to seek compensation and better care for your family member. Contact us to schedule a free initial case evaluation today.