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The Impact of Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

elder abuse and pillsBetween 2013-2017, Arkansas’s nursing home population reached nearly 3 million residents in total. During that time, there were 216 “significant” medication errors in nursing homes throughout Arkansas. These medication errors caused tremendous harm, pain, and suffering. In some cases, they even resulted in death. That is because elderly patients are vulnerable and at high risk for suffering severe injuries when given an improper dose of medication or the wrong medication.

Sadly, Arkansas elderly residents are at a higher risk for suffering a medication error in nursing homes than other nearby states. Texas, for example, reported only 128 more serious medication errors in nursing homes during the same time period. This means that Arkansas has 19 times more reported “significant” medication errors, per capita, than does Texas.

In fact, the average percentage of facilities cited annually in Arkansas is significantly higher than all the other states in the region, with 20.4 percent of facilities in Arkansas being cited for medication errors compared to 5.5 percent in Texas, 2.8 percent in Louisiana, and 5.4 percent in Oklahoma.

When understaffed, overworked, or negligent caregivers make medication errors in nursing homes, they can cause grave harm to their patients. If your loved one suffered an injury because of a medication error, you have a right to justice. Nursing homes can – and should – be held accountable for the mistakes they make. An experienced Arkansas nursing home lawyer can help hold them accountable and get your loved ones the compensation they deserve.

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Medication Error Standards in Nursing Homes

When a medication is administered in a nursing home, nurses and staff must ensure that the patient receives the proper medication and in the proper amounts. When a mistake is made during the administration of medications, serious harm can result.

The state of Arkansas inspects nursing homes frequently to ensure that patients are being properly cared for. When these inspections occur, they look at the frequency of medication errors in nursing homes. If the error rate is above the standard, the nursing home must create and implement a plan to correct those errors and ensure the safety of their patients. Currently, all nursing homes must have a medication error rate below five percent. Minor errors are understandable, but significant medication errors cannot occur and are not tolerated.

Administration of Medication in Nursing Homes

In nursing homes, a staff member uses a cart to dispense the medications to the correct patients. They do this according to the doctor’s orders. Med passes like these are carried out by licensed nurses who are trained to spot inconsistencies in medication orders and who are less likely to make medication errors. However, some states do allow unlicensed staff to administer medications as long as a nurse is supervising.

Medications in nursing homes vary from oral and topical medications to injections depending on the type of medication ordered. Nurses must identify the following in order to avoid medication errors during administration:

  • Right patient
  • Right medication
  • Right dose
  • Right administration route
  • Right times/frequency

Examples of Medication Errors

Sadly, 16 to 27 percent of all nursing home residents fall victim to a medication error of some sort.

Medication errors in nursing homes range significantly and include:

  • Giving expired medication
  • Giving too much medication
  • Giving medication at the wrong times
  • Giving the wrong medication to the wrong patient
  • Skipping a dose of medication
  • Using an incorrect medication administration technique
  • Giving the wrong form of the medication, such as the wrong strength
  • Failing to dilute medication properly
  • Failing to monitor resident after medication administration
  • Lab errors
  • Following wrong med pass routine

Common Causes of Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

There are many causes of medication errors in nursing homes. Nurses and nursing home staff are human and all humans make mistakes from time to time. However, nursing homes have a responsibility to implement safe medication protocols to ensure that these medication errors rarely occur.

Some of the most common causes of medication errors include:

  • Understaffing
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Confusion regarding administration
  • Incorrect transcriptions of doses or prescriptions
  • Failure to double-check patient and dose
  • Failure to follow protocols
  • Failure to check the patient history and allergies before administration

When a staff member or nurse fails to check a patient’s medical history, they can miss important details, such as allergies or other medications that could interact dangerously with the new drug.

In addition, understaffed and overworked nurses and staff make preventable errors. Nursing homes have a responsibility to ensure that they are adequately staffed to help prevent these serious errors.

How to Prevent Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

Nursing homes have many responsibilities when it comes to protecting their elderly patients from medication errors. They must adequately staff their nursing home, provide breaks for staff members, ensure that each staff member is properly trained, and implement safe medication protocols. When an error does occur, they must act swiftly to identify the cause of the error so that future medication errors do not occur.

The Institute of Safe Medication Practices believes many medication errors can be prevented by following these protocols:

  • Identify and verify proper patient
  • Provide access to proper and up-to-date drug information
  • Eliminate any barriers to adequate communication between physicians, pharmacists, and staff.
  • Ensure that medications are properly labeled and stored
  • Decrease availability to floor stocked medications
  • Restrict access to high-alert drugs
  • Educate and train staff on safe medication administration and protocols

Call Us Today

When your loved one suffers an injury due to a medication error in a nursing home, you need someone on your side. The team of nursing home injury lawyers at Rainwater, Holt & Sexton can help. Come by our office or call us to set up a free initial consultation.

We want to help you and your loved one through this ordeal. With seven office locations in Arkansas and Tennessee – Little Rock, Springdale, Conway, Hot Springs, Bryant, Jacksonville, and Memphis —our personal injury lawyers are easily accessible when you need help.

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