Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

Medication errors are disturbingly common throughout the medical industry, but they are especially prevalent – and dangerous – in nursing homes. The average American over age 75 takes 11 different medications a year, according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). In nursing homes, patients rely on caregivers to prepare and provide these drugs and treatments. Families of nursing home residents trust staff to carefully monitor the administration of powerful medications – yet medication errors continue to plague nursing homes, resulting in serious illness and death for an alarming number of elderly people each year.

Providing appropriate medical care is one of the most integral responsibilities of nursing home staff. Whether staff members are giving medication to manage diabetes or anticoagulants to prevent blood clots and stroke, they hold the wellbeing and lives of elderly patients in their hands. Yet statistics show that deadly and devastating mistakes occur in nursing homes with alarming frequency.

Medication errors are unsafe for anyone. But for elderly people who may be suffering from compromised immune systems, underlying medical conditions, and a low body mass index, prescription and medication mistakes can be particularly harmful. In a case that made national news, a nursing home resident became severely dehydrated and eventually succumbed to kidney failure after she was given the wrong medication because nurses had mixed up the similarly sounding drugs metolazone and methimazole. Some drugs are more likely to cause catastrophic complications than others. For instance, the improper dosage of the powerful anticoagulant warfarin can lead to life-threatening hemorrhaging or internal bleeding. For patients with overlooked allergies, even a simple dose of penicillin can be fatal.

Causes of medication errors in nursing homes

There are many ways in which medication errors can occur. Nursing home staff members may fail to administer a necessary medication, provide the wrong medication, give the medication at the wrong time or in the wrong dose, or fail to follow the orders of a doctor or pharmacist when handling and administering prescriptions. Some of the most common negligent medication errors our attorneys see include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Failure to provide medication
  • Medication overdose or under dose
  • Mixing up patient medications
  • Administration of expired prescription
  • Outdated prescription order
  • Incorrect lab work or documentation
  • Improper administration of drug
  • Failure to account for a patient’s medical background

More often than not, serious medication errors occur when inpatient facilities such as nursing homes are understaffed. Hurried, overworked and poorly trained caregivers are more prone to error and less likely to catch resulting mistakes before it is too late. Minor errors may be unavoidable, but there is no excuse for serious blunders that rob nursing home residents of their health and their lives. When a preventable medication error results in the serious injury or death of a nursing home resident, the responsible parties should be held accountable.

Watching a loved one suffer is hard enough, but knowing the pain of a beloved parent, grandparent or spouse could have been prevented with proper care is especially difficult for families. In addition to an understandable amount of emotional anguish, the loved ones of medication error victims are often burdened with excessive medical bills. If a family member in a nursing home has suffered injury or death as a result of a medication mistake, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

At Phillips Law Offices, our Illinois personal injury lawyers have been helping victims of nursing home abuse and their families obtain justice and fair financial recovery for more than 65 years. Our attorneys are committed to meticulously investigating claims, relentlessly pursuing damages and ensuring our clients receive the compensation they deserve. If you suspect nursing home negligence in the injury or death of your loved one, call Phillips Law Offices today at (312) 346-4262 or contact us online for your free legal consultation with one of our experienced nursing home attorneys.