Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

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:

  • Providing medication to the wrong patient. Though there are several ways this mistake can occur, many times it’s simply an oversight on the part of the clinical staff and creates what is debatably one of the most dangerous errors in medication dispersion.
  • Failure to follow medication instructions. This can include anything from cutting a pill that wasn’t meant to be sliced to improperly mixing medication. These actions can lead to problems such as patients taking an improper dosage or diluting the effects of the medication.
  • Failure to provide medication. In this situation, a resident may not even be given the medication that they’ve been prescribed. Though this may be accidental, the withholding of medicine can be a strong indicator of elder abuse and is one of the clearest indicators of an overall issue at the facility.

What Causes These Mistakes?

There are many different causes of medication errors, but they can best be explained in four different subgenres:

  • Memory based. These errors occur simply due to mental mistakes. For example, a nurse may forget that a patient has started a new medication or stopped an old one, and not be caring for the patient within the parameters of their current medication plan.
  • Action based. Action based errors are characterized as errors that occur even though the medical staff has all the knowledge they need to perform their task well. This can be something as small as misreading a dosage all the way to giving out the wrong prescription.
  • Rule based. When a staff member doesn’t apply a rule appropriately. For example, a prescription may be given out an hour later than intended.
  • Knowledge based. Occurring when a member of the medical staff simply isn’t informed enough, this can range from accidentally giving a patient an allergen to having a patient take medications that should not be mixed together.

What Can Be Done to Stop This?

Though it’s impossible to rid nursing homes of any sort of medicine distribution errors, it is important to remember that nursing homes are accountable for their actions, opening the door to lawsuits if not diligent with their work. However, with an understanding of the most common types of malpractice, as well as their causes, we are better equipped to recognize when these errors occur.

Christopher C. Walton is an award-winning elder abuse attorney who serves the San Diego and Temecula Valley Regions.  Contact Chris today at (866) 338-7079 or click here for a free consultation.