Medication errors for nursing home residents occur far more often than we expect. Under federal regulations, a nursing home must not have a medication error rate of more than 5 percent. However, a study has found that medication errors happen to some 27 percent of nursing home residents. And for these elderly or frail residents, every drug administration mistake could mean serious danger to their health.
If a medication error has caused injury to your loved one in a care facility, the law provides ways for you to hold the facility accountable and get compensation for your loved one.
In Southern California, contact Barrios & Machado. We are a trusted law firm that has helped Californians in their claim against nursing homes and assisted living facilities. We’re ready to fight for you. Contact Barrios & Machado at (714) 515-9696.
What are Medication Errors? Definition and Examples
A medication error is when the facility’s action regarding drugs doesn't match either the physician’s orders, the manufacturer’s specifications, or the accepted professional standards. Each nursing home resident has their own set of medical specifications which the facility must follow. Unfortunately, negligence in some facilities leads to pharmaceutical errors such as these:
- Administering the wrong medication
- Not administering medication when needed
- Administering expired drugs
- Wrong timing in administering medication
- Giving the wrong strength or form of medication
- Improper monitoring or documenting of drug administration and effects on patient
- Improper labeling of drugs
- Transcription and drug ordering errors.
At nursing homes, some of the more common scenarios involving medication errors are:
- Splitting or crushing tablets
- Improperly preparing medication that requires mixing, shaking, or rolling
- Not following nutritional formulas, especially for enteral (tube) feeding
- Failing to provide antacids when the medication calls for it
- Improperly changing the medication procedure for resistant patients – for example, allowing a patient to swallow a tablet that’s meant to be sublingual (kept under the tongue).
Dangers of Medication Errors
While not all medication lapses lead to serious injury, some pose danger to the health and wellness of seniors. These are some real-life examples of how pharmaceutical errors could harm nursing home residents:
- A California nursing home resident tragically died of extremely low blood sugar after getting four doses of insulin within a three-and-a-half-hour period. The repeated insulin doses were attributed to administrative turnover issues as well as understaffing at the home.
- In Minnesota, a nursing home resident succumbed to a stroke after his facility failed to give him his needed anticoagulant for nine days. The situation was caused by a nurse’s transcription error, who placed the man’s anticoagulant order on another resident’s file.
- Patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can be much more susceptible to pneumonia if they take certain sedatives like benzodiazepines. Prescribing physicians need to take this into account, and nursing facilities need to monitor their residents who could be affected.
- Many common prescription drugs could increase a nursing home resident’s risk of falling, thus the facility must closely monitor patients taking such medication. Examples of these drugs are antipsychotics like Haldol, pain management drugs like Demerol, and muscle relaxants like Flexeril.
Under federal law, a medication error is “significant” if it causes discomfort to the resident or jeopardizes their health and safety. There should be zero incidents of significant medication errors at nursing homes. Unfortunately, as we see from the examples above, dangerous drug errors still occur at the very places where we entrust our loved ones.
Recognizing Signs of Medication Errors
There’s a wide range of symptoms of pharmaceutical errors, depending on what went wrong and what drugs were involved. Your loved one’s symptoms may be vague, but it’s best to take note of them as well. In general, be on the lookout for symptoms like:
- Extreme fatigue
- Disorientation or confusion
- Persistent health complaints
- General pain
- Breathing difficulties
If you suspect that your loved one has been harmed through a medication error, take action right away. If the symptoms are urgent, such as trouble breathing, seek medical attention immediately.
Whether or not the situation is an emergency, you’ll want to consult a reliable attorney who can recognize elements of nursing home negligence or abuse. A competent lawyer can assess your case and help you find your best next steps to hold the facility responsible.
Contact a Trusted Nursing Home Medication Error Lawyer in Orange County
Southern Californians trust the attorneys at Barrios & Machado for nursing home cases. Our firm has helped seniors and their families pursue their claims against negligent or abusive facilities. We combine skill and experience with our fearlessness when going up against healthcare companies and their insurers. This is how we’ve obtained favorable settlements on behalf of our clients.
Talk to us in a free and confidential consultation. Call Barrios & Machado at (714) 515-9696 today.