Medication and aging go hand in hand. As we grow older, we develop any number of conditions that must be treated correctly for us to remain healthy and alive. From high blood pressure to dementia, our elderly require medication just to live. You would expect this to be not only understood within nursing homes but for it to be a “golden rule” of sorts. Sadly, that is not the case. In fact, there is a growing number of situations involving wrongful medications and overmedication in nursing homes.
Some Real World Examples
Nursing home staff should, by definition, understand that their charges require the right medication, in the right amount, at the right time, every single day. However, that point seems to have been missed by many staffers, as evidenced by the horrifying number of lawsuits being filed for wrongful medications and overmedication in nursing homes.
One example comes from Chicago, in which a woman died as a result of the nursing home where she resided administering the wrong doses of incorrect medications, without monitoring her or reporting her condition.
This is not the only example. In fact, a story in the ProPublica reported that one in three patients in “skilled nursing facilities” suffered from some medication error, or harm related to their medications. Up to 59% of the errors made and injuries caused to these patients is avoidable, and caused by negligence on the part of the nursing home. The study cited in the story was conducted by the Inspector General of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and found the following:
- 22% of patients in nursing homes suffered injuries that caused lasting harm due to medication errors.
- 5% of patients died because of the care they received.
- Nationally, a projected 21,777 patients were harmed, with over 1,500 dead from preventable medical and medication errors.
Types of Medication Errors
The phrase “wrongful medications and overmedication” in nursing homes can be difficult to understand, so we must break it down with a few examples of medication errors. These are frighteningly common in nursing homes across the US.
Splitting Medications: Some medications can be cut or split, but others cannot. Unfortunately, too many of the wrong kind are split, which goes against the physician’s instructions and can lead to too much uptake too quickly.
Too Little Liquid: Some medications must be taken with a specific amount of liquid to ensure efficacy and prevent injury. However, too often, not enough liquid is provided.
Improper Eye Drop Medication Dispensation: Some medications must be given in the form of eye drops that must make direct contact with the eye. However, too many nursing home staff members do not ensure the drops are administered correctly, and the medication does no good.
Mixing or Shaking: Some medications must be mixed or shaken before being administered, but often, they are not, or are shaken, mixed or rolled incorrectly. In this case, there is a risk of overdose for the patient.
No Food: Many medications must be taken with food to be effective. Others must be given with antacids. Failure to do so can lead to injury for the patient, but many nursing home staff members fail to follow these directions.
There are many other examples. For instance, staff members have been found allowing residents to swallow medication that is supposed to dissolve in the mouth. Others fail to follow the instructions for providing medications with the right enteral formula.
Other examples of wrongful medications and overmedication in nursing homes include the following, most of which fall under negligence at the best:
- Providing expired medications for residents
- Providing the wrong amount of medication at the wrong time
- Incorrectly documenting medication dosing
- Incorrect medication administration order
- Skipping dosages
If your loved one has been injured as a result of the wrong medication being administered, or too much medication being provided, or any other form of negligence within a nursing home, it is vital that you report it as elder abuse to your state’s hotline. You can also benefit from speaking with an experienced elder abuse attorney to learn more about your potential case.