Articles Posted in Prescription Medication Misuse

shutterstock_16983095711-300x200Unfortunately, nursing home abuse occurs more often than you might think. While many forms of abuse leave physical marks (like a scratch or bruise), some forms of abuse leave invisible scars, which are no less harmful than physical abuse. Besides financial and emotional abuse, this is also the case of medication errors, which occur when someone makes a mistake in prescribing, dispensing, and giving medications.

Examples of Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

While medication errors exist in many settings, our concern here is for the instances in nursing homes. Here are just a few specific ways that medication errors occur in these facilities:

shutterstock_657828892-300x225Many nursing home residents depend on the assistance of staff to help administer their medication. This is a very important aspect of their lives because medication can be needed to help manage existing health conditions and to ensure that the residents can maintain healthy lives. However, there are times when nursing homes improperly use medication as a chemical restraint.

What is a Chemical Restraint?

Thankfully, most nursing homes would never consider using a physical restraint. However, many institutions do indeed use chemical restraints in the form of psychotropic drugs. These drugs can impact the resident’s thoughts, physical responses, and general behavior.

shutterstock_6578288924-300x225According to the FDA, medication errors account for over 1 million injuries annually. A nursing home medication error is defined as a preventable drug-related mistake that impacts a nursing home resident. If you or your loved one is in such a facility, then it’s important to learn more information about this topic.

 Common Types of Medication Errors

The majority of nursing home residents use some kind of prescription medication, and there are a lot of ways things can go wrong when it comes to dispensing it. Here are some examples:

The antibiotic is considered one of the greatest achievements in the history of mankind.  However, scientist have been studying antibiotic resistance since the 1940’s.  In 1947, penicillin became ineffective against its first bacterium.  Unfortunately, only as recent as 2017 have nursing homes been forced to develop, implement, and maintain an antibiotic stewardship program.

An Overview of the Problem

In any long-term care facility, the spread of bacteria and viruses is all but inevitable.  Mitigation techniques such as hand washing, frequent bathing, linen changes, and contact precautions do help, but at some point, this is not enough.  Increasingly, nursing home residents are being prescribed antibiotics even when their indications do not meet the criteria.  You may be surprised to know that, according to the CDC, 50%-70% of nursing home residents are prescribed antibiotics in any rolling 12-month period.  Additionally,

It is nearly impossible to avoid any medication error at a nursing home, meaning every individual establishment is required by state inspectors to keep their error rate below 5 percent. This mandate only includes minor errors, with essentially no acceptance of major medical incompetence. However, even with these regulations in place, nursing homes are not infallible.

What Constitutes a Medication Error?

There are many different forms of medication malpractice ranging from minor mistakes with little to no consequence, all the way to life threatening errors. These are some of the most common errors:

Nursing homes are often under-staffed in an effort to maximize profits or because they are underfunded.  With the number of elderly people requiring care increasing at a record pace, some institutions use prescription drugs to make their residents more “manageable”.  Legal and ethical issues notwithstanding, the health implications of the use of chemical restraints are terrifying.

What Is a Chemical Restraint?

Put simply, a chemical restraint is when someone’s movement or actions are restricted through pharmaceutical intervention.  Types of drugs used as chemical restraints are:

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.

It is an unfortunate fact that elder abuse is a common and growing problem in San Diego and throughout the United States. Abuse of the elderly can take many forms, ranging from neglect and abandonment to physical, verbal, financial, and even sexual abuse. Fortunately, professionals in health care are constantly working towards new breakthroughs in treatment and the prevention of abuse in the elderly population. It’s true that new research and techniques are changing the face of convalescent care every day.

As the population of elders in San Diego continues to grow, it’s also encouraging to see the elder abuse epidemic be drawn out of the shadows and into the light, so we can all learn to recognize symptoms of elder abuse, and report any suspicions. One such example of shining a light on elder abuse prevention will be coming to Southern California next month.

On September 15, 2016 the 2-day USC Judith D. Tamkin International Symposium on Elder Abuse will welcome “researchers, academics, physicians, nurses, and psychologists” to participate in a weekend committed to “Closing the Research Gaps and Moving the Field of Elder Abuse Forward.”

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.

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