Parents and grandparents deserve the best treatment when they get older. Unfortunately, a very common problem in nursing homes and hospitals is errors in medication administration. Getting a patient’s medication wrong puts them at risk of injury or even death.
If an error regarding medication is being investigated in a nursing home or hospital, inspectors for the state will need to first identify the medication error rate of that specific facility. Each facility needs to remain below an acceptable percentage of medication errors to stay in business.
If the error rate goes above the legal standard, the facility will need to take steps to correct the cause of these errors. If you have a loved one who has been a victim of medication errors in a nursing home, you should speak with a reputable nursing home abuse attorney. The lawyers at KBA Attorneys are a team of highly-skilled professionals who truly care about the clients we serve. Our priority is to offer our clients the professional legal help they deserve. Speak with our Maryland nursing home medication error lawyers to learn how to file a lawsuit against a negligent care facility.
Standards For Medication Errors
According to regulation F332, a nursing home’s error rate for medication prescriptions must be below five percent. It is inevitable that some errors will occur. However, all residents in a nursing home facility or hospital need to be free of any major errors in medication. By definition, medication errors are any type of mistake made while the medication is being administered to a resident.
Nursing Home Medication Administration
Within most nursing home facilities, residents’ medications are often administered during what is called a “med pass”. This term refers to when all medications are administered to the residents of the facility at a specific time of day. All medications are typically loaded onto a cart and the nurse or the attending physician goes around the facility and passes out each resident’s medication. These are all administered according to the doctor’s or manufacturer’s instructions.
Licensed nurses are the ones responsible for med passes at a nursing home facility. Some states will allow staff members who are unlicensed to complete the med pass if a nurse is supervising the process. Most med passes at typical facilities will take up to five hours to complete. On top of medication administration, several more hours may be added to that timeframe for organizing the medications and documentation.
Common Examples of Nursing Home Medication Error
In nursing home settings, there are many types of medication errors that can happen. The most common ones include:
- Cutting or slicing a pill not meant to be split. This can include capsules and tablets that are instructed not to be cut or crushed.
- Not offering adequate liquids with given medications. Many types of medications come with instructions on the necessary amount of liquid that needs to be given when taking it. If a resident is given medication and insufficient amounts of liquid to wash it down, they may end up becoming dehydrated or harmed.
- Not offering appropriate food or antacids with medication. Certain medications require taking with food and some without food. Other types of medication need to be taken with antacids prior to administration. Nursing home staff are required to give all medication to residents appropriately and with the correct liquid, food, or antacids needed.
- Failure to shake, mix, or roll medication. Certain medications need mixing or shaking before they can be administered appropriately. When not mixed or shaken properly, there may be a risk of giving the resident too little or too much of the medication they need. When it comes to medications such as insulin suspensions, this is very important.
- Dispensing medications with nutritional formulas that are enteral. Many residents living in nursing facilities take enteral nutrition. There are strict guidelines and practices that need to be followed when these types of medications are given. When proper protocol is not followed, there may be errors in the medication that can harm a resident patient.
- Improperly administering eye drops to residents. Most eye medications need to be put directly into the patient’s eyes. When administering these types of medications, nursing staff need to ensure they are getting the correct amount in each affected eye. All eye medications come with instructions on how long they will take to absorb properly. If not done properly, this is considered a medication error.
- Making residents swallow sublingual medications. Many nursing home residents do not like taking sublingual tablets. If the resident repeatedly swallows a sublingual tablet, the medication should be changed to another type.
Negligent Nursing Home Medication Errors
- Administering too much medication
- Administering too little medication or skipping doses
- Giving residents medication that has expired
- Using a technique to administer medication that is incorrect
- Giving medication at the wrong time or frequency
- Giving the wrong medication to a resident or the wrong strength
- Administering medication in the wrong form
- Incorrectly documenting medication given
- Failure to monitor residents once the medication is administered
- Lab errors
- Failure to follow the correct med pass routine
Many nursing facilities and hospitals see their share of malpractice concerns experienced by residents. Oftentimes, these concerns can be grounds for a medication error lawsuit because of medication error laws. If you feel your loved one has a malpractice concern, contact one of our professional lawyers here at KBA Attorneys for help. Some examples of nursing home medication errors that can result in a lawsuit include:
- Ignoring orders – Many staff members will ignore the medication administration instructions, add medications not ordered by the doctor, change the order of medication, or discontinue a medication for a resident without orders from the doctor.
- Poor management of medication – Nursing facilities are tasked with having the medication their residents need and require on hand when it is time to administer them during med pass. Not having the necessary medicine available is poor management of medication and a lawsuit can be filed if adverse results occur.
- Medication borrowing – Staff can get very busy during a med pass. During the rush, medication may become missing. If this happens, some staff may choose to take medication from another patient and borrow it until they can go get more. When this process is not documented, mistakes can happen.
- Medication diversions – When a nursing home staff member decides to divert a medication, it is a likely indication they may be stealing the medicine for various personal uses. They may take the medication themselves or sell it to other people for money.
Causes of Nursing Home Medication Errors
Errors in the administration of medicine can turn into a serious problem. Even though many errors result in only minor consequences for residents, some serious or fatal consequences can occur. Some of the common nursing home medication error consequences include:
- Dehydration and malnutrition
- Reduced immune response
- Unexpected medical complications
- Organ failure
There are many different causes of nursing home medication errors. The most common types of medication errors are knowledge-based, action-based, rule-based and memory-based.
- Knowledge-based errors occur when the nursing staff has a lack of knowledge about administering specific medications. There is a lot to understand about medications before they can be properly administered to residents. In some instances, the gap in knowledge between a doctor and staff is significant enough to cause errors.
- Rule-based errors are ones where medical staff in nursing homes incorrectly apply an appropriate rule or use a bad rule when giving out medicine. These errors are often caused by things such as improperly trained nursing home staff, confusion about a rule, exhaustion of staff, or unclear prescription instructions.
- Action-based errors occur when the medical nursing staff has the right instructions and tries their best to follow the instructions. However, errors can still be made by accident. Some common errors of this type include misreading a prescription, writing the wrong prescription down and accidentally picking up the wrong bottle when giving medicine to a resident. These errors happen due to staff being tired or distracted, failure to use failsafe systems, failure to crosscheck, or neglect and inattention to details. Unfortunately, not all mistakes can be avoided. Even the best nursing home facilities and hospitals see their share of mistakes happen.
- Memory-based errors are another cause and are usually due to simple mental errors. These mistakes can affect how resident medications are administered. An example of this type of error is when a nursing staff member forgets that a specific resident is allergic to a type of medication and still gives it to them. Another example is a nursing staff member forgetting to record a medication being administered to a resident and another staff member accidentally giving them another dose. These types of errors can often be the hardest to prevent.
Responsibility for Residents’ Medication
Nursing home settings have unique challenges to run smoothly and safely. The nursing staff has to be ready and able to provide for the residents in a safe and reliable manner. The care of nursing home residents is not easy and they are vulnerable patients. Almost half of nursing home residents need to have extensive assistance with many of their daily activities including eating, bed mobility, using the restroom, and medicine administration.
Adverse drug medication errors in nursing homes are common and very preventable. The combination of various strategies used together is required in order to have a meaningful impact on the safety and quality of medication administration techniques used in nursing home settings.
File a Claim with a Maryland Nursing Home Medication Error Attorney
If your loved one has been injured or has died as a result of nursing home medication errors in Maryland, you need a reputable nursing home abuse lawyer from KBA Attorneys by your side. We are experienced in handling nursing home abuse lawsuits and are knowledgeable about these types of cases. Our personal injury law firm has also taken on many dangerous drug cases, so our legal team is well versed in dealing with different types of medications.
Call our Maryland nursing home medication error lawyer or fill out an online form for a free case evaluation.
- Rayhan A. Tariq and Yevgeniya Scherbak. “Medication Errors”, Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519065/. Accessed July 22, 2019.
- Medcom Trainex. “Medication Errors in Nursing: Common Types, Causes, and Prevention”, Medcom, Inc, https://www.medcomrn.com/index.php/articles/common-nursing-medication-errors-types-causes-prevention/. Accessed July 22, 2019.
- Jerry Gurwitz, MD. “Medication Safety in Nursing Homes: What’s Wrong and How to Fix It”, PSNet, https://psnet.ahrq.gov/perspectives/perspective/126/medication-safety-in-nursing-homes-whats-wrong-and-how-to-fix-it. Accessed July 22, 2019.
- PSNet. “Medication Administration Errors”, PSNet, https://psnet.ahrq.gov/primers/primer/47/Medication-Administration-Errors. Accessed July 22, 2019.
- AllLaw. “Nursing Home Liability for Medication Errors”, AllLaw, https://www.alllaw.com/articles/nolo/personal-injury/nursing-home-liability-medication-errors.html. Accessed July 22, 2019.