With increasing numbers of people turning 65 and older and unable to support themselves physically or to handle their own affairs, nursing home residency has become an expected or anticipated stage in one’s life. An important element of any nursing home is medical care, and an essential component of that care is the proper preparing and administering of medications to residents. Unfortunately, nursing home medication errors are all too common and lead to serious complications and injuries.
Each nursing home facility is required to keep its medication error rate below 5%, recognizing that mistakes do occur so long as they are minor. If its error rate exceeds 5%, then the facility must implement measures to address the problem.
Medications are a routine part of daily nursing home life for most residents. While many residents administer their own medications, a sizeable number are unable to do so and their medicines are given to them by staff members who may be visiting each resident with a cart containing the various pills and liquids needed. This procedure is known as a “med pass” where the staff member carefully administers to each resident on a set schedule. Massachusetts requires the administering staff member to be certified. After each person receives the medication, the staff member should note it on the resident’s chart.
Causes of Medication Errors
Medication errors are caused by a variety of factors including:
- Misreading the doctor’s instructions on dosage
- Giving the wrong medication either intentionally or inadvertently
- Purposely skipping a patient
- Error in labeling on the bottle or other container
- Patient error in self-administering medications or allowing the patient to self-administer
- Mistakes by family members who administer the medications
- Staff members who are distracted or fatigued and give the wrong medication, the improper quantity or who do not follow protocol or the proper procedure for that particular medication
- Failure to monitor the staff member who is dispensing and administering the medications
Nursing homes are notorious for understaffing or having under-trained personnel. Fatigued workers may be overwhelmed by the number of residents and medications needed to be dispensed.
Common Examples of Medication Errors
Besides giving a resident medication that was to go to a different resident or giving the wrong dosage, there are other examples of medication errors found in nursing home settings:
- Improperly slicing or crushing medicines that instructions clearly state should not be done
- Failing to ensure the resident is hydrated or drinks enough fluid before and with the medication
- Improperly administering an eye drop medication
- Not administering an anti-nausea or antacid with the medicine as instructed on the label or which is part of the resident’s health plan
- Not shaking or properly mixing a medication so that the resident does not get the proper amount of the medicine, or bubbles appear in the medication that can lead to complications
- Failing to follow proper medical protocol in administering certain medications such as ENFs or enteral nutritional formulas
- Giving the medication when not scheduled
- Administering expired medication
- Errors in documentation
- Failing to follow up with patient if required in health care plan or instructions
- Borrowing medications from one resident’s supply to give to another
These and other examples can constitute nursing home abuse or malpractice. If you learn of or suspect your loved one’s illness, complications or injuries were caused by an error in medication, or by repeated errors, contact Paul Tetzel, a Boston nursing home malpractice lawyer to discuss possible legal options.
What a Nursing Home Malpractice Lawyer Can Do
Nursing home abuse or nursing home malpractice is a field of law that requires specialized knowledge in many cases by a legal practitioner who has handled such matters successfully. Nursing homes are insured and are defended from lawsuits by teams of experienced and knowledgeable defense lawyers who will either deny that any malpractice occurred or attempt to place the blame elsewhere.
Nursing home medications can cause serious medical problems and even death. Attorney Paul Tetzel and his staff will obtain your loved one’s medical file and charts, interview other residents or staff members, investigate prior complaints of error medications and examine the state’s records for the nursing home’s compliance with state regulations. If needed, experts in nursing home protocol and procedure will be retained to prove nursing home liability. He will also ensure that your loved one is cared for and treated by the appropriate medical providers and that medical reports demonstrating that medication errors led to complications were the cause of injury.
Contact Paul Tetzel today if your loved one was harmed by nursing home abuse or malpractice. Time is of the essence in these cases so prompt attention to any suspicion of wrong doing by a nursing home is vital.