Medication Standards for Elders
The nursing home medication error rate must remain below five percent. While it is inevitable to have minor errors, all nursing facility residents must be free of significant medication errors.
A medication error is made when it is different from the doctor’s order or the manufacturer’s instructions, or when it falls below accepted professional standards for the medication.
Serious errors may be considered nursing home neglect or even abuse.
The definition of a medication error includes mistakes that are made while making or administering the residents’ medications.
If you or a loved one suffered a medication error in a nursing home that caused serious injury or death, compensation may be available. Learn more with a free case review.
The Administration of Medication in the Nursing Home
In most nursing facilities, the medication is given when the nursing staff member completes what is known as a “med pass”. This is the term used when describing the process of dispensing medication to nursing facility residents according to order.
The nurse usually uses a cart when doing a med pass, giving out medication from resident to resident according to the doctors’ orders.
Med passes are carried out by licensed nurses. Some states, on the other hand, will allow unlicensed staff members to provide medication as long as a nurse is supervising. Med passes usually take 4-5 hours to complete.
In addition to giving the medication, it can take several more hours to organize the medications and document the administration of the medications.
Examples of Medication Errors
There are various types of medication errors that can happen in a nursing home.
Examples of medication errors include:
- Slicing or cutting a pill that shouldn’t be split: This can include tablets or capsules that carry the instructions not to crush.
- Providing inadequate liquids: Many medications have instructions as to how much liquid should be given with the medication. If the resident does not drink this amount of liquid, they will not be adequately hydrated and the medication may cause harm to the resident.
- Providing inadequate antacids or food: Some medications require that the resident takes the medication with or without food. Some require antacids to be given prior to ingesting the medication. It is up to the nursing staff to give the medication in the right way.
- Failing to mix, shake or roll the medication: Some medications require special shaking or mixing before being ingested. If the medication is not properly mixed, there is a risk of giving the resident too much or too little of the medication. This is true of insulin suspensions and other types of suspensions.
- Not following enteral nutritional formulas: Some residents are taking enteral nutrition (being fed through a tube). There is a list of practices and guidelines that must be followed in order to give medications to these patients. If the proper protocol isn’t followed, there may be a medication error that harms the patient.
- Improperly giving eye drops: Some medications for the eye must be given directly into the eye. The nursing home staff member must make sure that the eye drop connects with the eye for a reasonable amount of time (about 3-5 minutes) to allow for absorption of the medication. If this is not done, it constitutes a medication error.
- Having residents swallow sublingual medications: Some patients are very resistant to taking sublingual tablets. If the resident repeatedly swallows the sublingual tablet, the medication needs to be changed.
Get a free case review if you or a loved one may have been harmed by any of these medication errors or others. You may be able to pursue financial aid for medical treatments and other costs.
Negligent Medication Errors
Because many nursing homes are understaffed, staff members could be overworked and tired, making medication errors more likely. The staff member may be distracted during the med pass and may make a mistake. The staff member doing the med pass should not feel as though they are being rushed, as this can lead to medication errors.
A study by the Medication Error Quality Initiative looked at the most common medication errors.
Common medication errors include:
- Documenting the giving of the medication incorrectly
- Failing to monitor the resident after giving the medication
- Following the wrong med pass routine
- Giving expired medications
- Giving too little or skipping a dose of medication
- Giving too much medication
- Giving the medication at the wrong time or at the wrong rate
- Giving the wrong form of the medication, the wrong strength, or the wrong medication altogether
- Having a lab error
- Using an incorrect med administration technique
There are various malpractice concerns that may be experienced by nursing facility residents that are grounds for a lawsuit on the basis of a medication error.
- Diversions of medication: When the staff member diverts a medication, it is usually a matter of stealing the medication for their own personal use. The medication may also be taken to sell to other people.
- Ignoring an order: Some employees will ignore the administration instructions and change the order, add medications that are not ordered, or discontinue a medication.
- Medication borrowing: When the staff is busy during the med pass, there may be medications missing. Instead of getting the right medication, the person doing the med pass may borrow a medication from one resident to another. If this is not documented, mistakes can be made.
- Poor medication management: This happens when the nursing facility fails to have the right medication on hand so that the nursing home resident will not have the medication available.
Lawsuits Regarding Medication Errors in the Nursing Home
The improper administration of medication can cause a resident to become seriously ill or even die. Filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit can help you take justice against those responsible for harming your loved one and help ensure others won’t have to suffer.
A successful nursing home abuse lawsuit provides financial compensation for your loved one’s injuries that can help pay for treatments and other costs.
Nobody should have to suffer from poor treatment during their most vulnerable years. If your loved one was the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, we can help.
Get a free case review today to see if you or your loved one may be entitled to compensation.