Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

Our Orange County Attorneys Hold Caretakers Responsible

It can be difficult to regulate your own medication if you have trouble reading or opening containers. This is why many people recruit help on behalf of an older relative or loved one. If you entrust an elder to a nursing home, you expect them to be properly medicated and cared for in your absence. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.

What Is a Medication Error?

A medication error is defined as any preventable mistake that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of a health care professional.

In nursing homes, medicine is usually distributed by a licensed nurse in a process known as a “med pass.” This process takes 4 or 5 hours and meds are typically distributed from a cart.

With such a routine process, it makes sense that a senior’s individual needs may be overlooked on the day-to-day. It makes even more sense that seniors who take multiple medications are more at risk of being afflicted by a medication error.

Some common errors include:

  • Too much medication
  • Skipped doses or too little medication
  • Expired medications
  • Incorrect administration techniques: providing inadequate foods, liquids, or antacids, cutting or crushing a pill that shouldn’t be manipulated, or directing a resident to swallow a sublingual tablet.
  • Medications given under the wrong time or circumstance
  • Documentation errors
  • Failure to monitor a resident after medication
  • Lab errors

While mistakes can happen, healthcare providers are required to exercise a high standard of care when handling medication, especially when that medication can be lifesaving to a vulnerable individual. Failure to meet this level of care can be considered negligent.

When Are Mistakes Considered Medical Malpractice?

When someone’s negligence causes an injury in your elderly loved one, you may have a claim for medical malpractice. That being said, nurses who administer medication are only held to the standards of skill and care that a similarly trained professional would exhibit under similar conditions.

Nursing homes are one of the most challenging environments to provide proper care within, so if the medication errors are minor, a nursing home may be upholding their care requirements. This is especially true if their rate of medication error falls below 5%.

Sometimes, however, the actions of a provider are wholly unacceptable. In addition to significant medical errors, the following cases constitute medical malpractice:

  • Ignoring an order: If an employee changes an administrative order, adds medications that are not ordered, or discontinues a medication; they are endangering your loved one and setting themselves and their employers up for a lawsuit.
  • Poor medication management: When your loved one is not provided with the correct medication because the nursing home failed to have it on hand, you may be able to hold the home responsible for mismanagement.
  • Medication borrowing: If your loved one is given medication intended for another patient, the consequences can be catastrophic – especially if the substitution is incorrect or improperly documented.
  • Diversions of medication: Sometimes, untrustworthy staff members or those with insufficient background checks intentionally harm elders. If someone steals your loved one’s medication for their own personal use or resale, the employee and nursing home can be punished.

Hiring a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

Ten percent of nursing home residents are harmed by adverse drug effects and 40% of those harms are preventable. If you believe your elderly friend or relative has been harmed by the negligence or intentional actions of a nursing home or its employees, it is important to seek justice.

Our attorneys have relationships with physicians and industry experts that can help us investigate and build your case. At the Law Office of Marshall Silberberg, we are dedicated to resolving your situation and helping you find the best possible outcome.

Call us at (949) 565-4281 and request a free consultation today.

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