Articles Posted in Medication Error

Elder abuse in any form is strictly prohibited by California law. In addition to physical abuse and neglect, medication errors in nursing homes are considered a form of elder abuse. Unfortunately, due to insufficient staffing in many long-term nursing facilities, errors in the type and amount of medications administered to residents occur with alarming frequency. While in many cases there may be no detrimental side effects to an elder who is given the incorrect medication, or the wrong dosage; in many other cases, the error can prove fatal.

For example, if two patients’ medications are mixed up, and incorrectly administered, the outcome can be disastrous. A diabetic who is mistakenly given a fellow patients’ heart medication may not under normal circumstances have a negative reaction. However, if that heart medication happens interacts with other medications he or she is taking, or causes side effects that the patient can’t sustain; the mistake can result in death.

Other medications must be taken consistently in order for them to be effective. Therefore, missing a dose of the proper medication can have devastating consequences on the elder who has missed their dosage. Other medication errors that may occur in nursing homes include:

The use of physical and chemical restraints in California nursing homes is sometimes a necessary way of protecting patients from injuring themselves and others. When used excessively and, more importantly, without consent, the practice becomes outright abusive. Often this method is used not simply to protect the patient, but rather to make a staff member’s job easier. Overuse of restraints is exacerbated by the growing number of understaffed nursing facilities.

Physical restraints are used to keep patients from wandering around the facility, a potential hazard for the patient and others. A nursing home is required by law to have the resident’s consent before using a physical restraint. Symptoms of physical restraints include sores or bruising on the arms and legs, usually on the ankles and wrists.

Chemical restraints involve the administering of powerful psychotropic drugs to sedate and confine the patient by taking away his or her cognitive abilities. These drugs are not permitted under any circumstances unless the nursing care facility outlines a legitimate medical reason for their use and further provides the frequency and dosage. Because most people are not familiar with the side effects of psychotropic drugs, it can be more difficult to identify chemical restraints than physical restraints.

Each year, more than one in three seniors sustain falls, which result in serious injuries. In some instances, falls are the result of elder or nursing home abuse. But in other instances, falls are purely accidental. An experienced San Diego attorney specializing in elder abuse or nursing home abuse, to include neglect, can help you distinguish if an injury from a fall was an accident or caused by the negligence or wrongdoing of another.

As we age, the likelihood of being diagnosed with a medical condition or disorder requiring prescription medication(s) is almost guaranteed. Because of this, far too many elders run the risk of being over-medicated, or experiencing dangerous side effects which increases the risk that an elder may fall. Many seniors are prescribed medications that have dangerous interactions when taken in conjunction with other medications.

To reduce the risk of experiencing potentially dangerous prescription interactions, it is recommended that seniors use caution when taking prescriptions or even over-the-counter (OTC) medications.

takemedicine.jpgSociety erroneously assumes prescription medication is only abused by the younger generations. Studies show, however, prescription drug abuse plagues men and women of all ages, including the elderly.

According to an article in the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Persons aged 65 years and older comprise only 13 percent of the population, yet account for more than one-third of total outpatient spending on prescription medications in the United States.” The article goes on to suggest that there are several ways in which an elderly person can abuse prescribed medication, such as:

• Abusing medication prescribed to a friend or family member in order to save money.
• Alternatively, the elder person has his/her medication taken by a friend or family member and running out of his/her supply early.
• Taking the incorrect dosage or type of medication to do mental decline.

Awareness is everyone’s responsibility, so be vigilant. There are cues that family, friends, and caregivers can recognize in order to intervene and get help as early as possible.

What should we be looking for?

• A loved one is showing signs of an unhealthy relationship with their medication, such as:

– Frequently talking about medicine

– A fear of running out or not having enough medication

– Taking a defensive stance after you ask about the medication

– Taking more than the prescribed amount or taking more often than prescribed

– Hiding or hoarding pills

• A loved one’s behavior and mood is changing, even if it seems associated with “old age” or illness. This could be a sign of chemical dependency.

• A past history of drug/alcohol abuse can make a person more susceptible.

If you suspect a loved one is abusing prescription medication, take action and talk to someone about it. A good first step is to contact the doctor prescribing the medication. He or she can help verify and/or validate your concerns, allowing you to take further action, if necessary.
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An investigation by ABC 10 in Sacramento has unveiled that powerful tranquilizers are being over prescribed to nursing home residents who are diagnosed with dementia. In fact, studies by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in conjunction with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) show that 33% of elders in nursing homes, who are diagnosed with dementia are actually prescribed antipsychotic medication, in spite of the fact that the FDA has warned that certain types of these drugs can prove fatal to elders. Death is most often the result of heart failure/cardiac disorders.

All the same, the data from those studies shows that these powerful drugs are far too often prescribed when they are not warranted. This practice, known as chemical restraint, or over-drugging of elders in nursing homes in California is a form of abuse, and is illegal.
Chemical restraining of elders is most often done to sedate residents, but in worst cases has been utilized as a means of punishing and/or intentionally abusing elders.

pills.jpgSymptoms that an elder is being over-drugged, or prescribed an anti-psychotic inside a California nursing home include:

*Extreme lethargy, sleepiness, and/or confusion.

*Noticeable and extreme behavioral changes.

*Sudden unexplained changes in overall health.

Elder abuse in California is both a criminal and civil offense. Criminal elder abuse describes the willful infliction of physical or emotional suffering on an elder. Civil elder abuse includes any physical or financial abuse, neglect, or abandonment resulting in physical or mental harm.
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diabetes elder.jpgElders are far more likely to suffer from diabetes than other age groups. It is estimated that 20% of adults between the ages of 65 and 75 have diabetes. That percentage climbs to 40% in adults over the age of 80. Needless to say, proper care of elders with diabetes in nursing homes is vital.

When elders with diabetes are not properly cared for, the side effects may be life threatening. For example, elders who have diabetes are at greater risk for mental and physical disabilities. They are also at greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, or stroke, all which may lead to premature death. Unfortunately, elders diagnosed with diabetes are also typically at an increased risk for depression, reduced mental functioning, and ongoing pain, all of which may lead to dangerous falls or injuries.

Nursing homes are responsible for ensuring that elders diagnosed with diabetes receive their proper medication, at the designated times. This may include insulin shots or oral medications. Nursing homes are also responsible for providing adequate nutrition, and/or restricting the diets of elder diabetics in order to ensure the maintenance of safe blood sugar levels. Furthermore, the nursing home staff are required to monitor the blood sugar levels of elders in their care through weekly or daily monitoring.

The failure of nursing home staff to properly care for elders with diabetes, including monitoring meals, and checking blood sugar levels constitutes neglect, a form of elder abuse. If you believe that a loved diabetic elder is being neglected while in the care of a California nursing home, you should consider contacting the Long-Term Care Ombudsman 24/7 Crisis Complaint Hotline: (800) 231-4024; Adult Protective Services; and/or your local Department of Public Health Licensing Office.

Remember that all elders in California nursing homes have the right to quality care and attention, regardless of their age or health. If those rights are denied, abuse must be reported. For additional tips on reporting suspected neglect and/or abuse in a California nursing home, the Justice Department has a helpful citizen’s guide that can be found at the following website: http://ag.ca.gov/bmfea/pdfs/citizens_guide.pdf
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A new study has been released which concludes that “Nearly one in five Medicare patients are victims of medical injuries that often aren’t related to their underlying disease or condition,” according to research conducted by the Gerontology Program at Towson University in Maryland.

The medical injuries span the spectrum from patients being given the wrong medication, to allergic reactions to medications, to even receiving treatment that further complicated existing medical problems.

For the study, data was collected from more than 12,500 Medicare patients with an average age of 76 who made claims between 1998 and 2005. Men, elders, and low income patients were found to have greatest risk for a medical injury. 19% of those included in the study experienced at least one adverse medical event, with 62% taking place during outpatient care. Disturbingly, but not surprisingly, the death rate among those who had experienced a medical injury was nearly twice as high when compared to those who hadn’t had one. While there is no failsafe way to prevent a medical injury, you can do your best to safeguard against this by reviewing tips provided by the National Patient Safety Foundation.