Nursing Home Liability For Medication Errors

Nursing homes are responsible for ensuring the safe administration of medication on their premises. Administering medication needs to be taken seriously. Failure to do so can lead to serious injury or death. Handling medication for the elderly is more complicated than standard medication administration. The elderly, particularly patients suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, often can’t keep track of their own medication.

If a nursing home erred while administering or failing to administer medication, it could be held liable through an insurance claim or lawsuit. These approaches usually necessitate legal action. If you believe that your nursing home erred while administering medication to your loved one, consider contacting a lawyer. A nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer can review your case.

The Definition Of Medication Errors

The Food and Drug Administration defines a medication error as “any preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of a healthcare provider, patient, or consumer.”

Notably, this definition doesn’t account for intentional misuse of medication or non-preventable medication errors.

Intentional misuse of medication – when a nursing home employee intentionally administers the wrong medication – is considered abuse, not an error. Non-preventable medication errors are situations where:

  • The patient has an allergic reaction to medication that was previously unknown.
  • A non-documented negative interaction occurs with another drug.

Regardless of this distinction, though, nursing homes have a responsibility to keep their patients safe. In cases of nursing home negligence, such as a medication error, the employee or employer can be financially liable for resulting damages.

Medication Errors In A Nursing Home

Medication errors take several forms in nursing homes. These are the most common types of medication errors:

  • Dose omission: Many nursing home patients require regular medication doses. Forgetting or failing to administer these doses can be dangerous, harmful, or lethal to residents.
  • Overdose: Medications must be administered at the correct dose. Patients are put at serious risk when medications are administered at higher doses.
  • Underdose: Underdoses can be just as dangerous as overdoses. If a patient doesn’t receive an adequate dose of their medication, they can experience negative health outcomes.
  • Wrong patient: Nursing home staff are overworked and undertrained, leading to mistakes. Administering the wrong medication to a resident carries significant risks. The intended use of the medication can have a disastrous effect on someone to whom it was not prescribed. In some cases, a drug interaction or allergy can cause harm. If you give a patient the wrong medication, that also likely means that two patients are missing out on their intended medications.
  • Wrong product: This error is similar to giving a drug to the wrong patient. In wrong product errors, a nursing home employee gives the wrong drug to the right patient.
  • Wrong strength: Medications come in a variety of strengths. Each concentration has its own potential for side effects and negative drug interactions. Sometimes it’s not obvious what strength a drug is. Negligent employees can harm nursing home residents by giving them too weak or strong of medication.

The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention (NCC MERP) categorizes these errors in severity on a scale from A to I. Errors between A and D don’t result in harm reaching a patient. Errors from E onwards cause harm to the patient. If the error is category H, the patient requires life support as a result. Category I indicates a medication error that ended in wrongful death.

How Can Nursing Homes Avoid Medication Errors?

The traditional model for correct medication administration – called the Five Rs – was introduced to provide nurses with a guideline to follow when administering medication. These are the steps involved:

  1. Right patient: The first step to success is ensuring that the correct patient is being treated. Nursing home employees should rely on patient ID rather than a first name to avoid confusion.
  2. Right drug: Closely reviewing a patient’s prescription can avoid drug administration mix-ups.
  3. Right route: Not all drugs are administered orally in pill form. Some use patches, IVs, or other forms of administration. The route used will alter how a drug affects a patient. It’s crucial that nursing homes use the correct route when administering drugs.
  4. Right time: Some drugs need to be administered at specific times to ensure an adequate therapeutic effect. Similarly, administering a drug too early or too late can be dangerous to a patient.
  5. Right dose: Overdoses present a very real threat to nursing home patients. Opioids, like fentanyl, are particularly dangerous when given in higher doses.

While these steps are a great place to start for nursing home employees, a 2021 research article noted that may not be enough on their own. Workplace strains, like understaffing, interruptions, and excessive workloads can reduce the efficacy of the five Rs.

Nursing home procedures don’t take place in a vacuum. If a home is understaffed or in poor working order, the quality of services offered can decline. A desire to increase profits by lowering staff salary costs is what drives most of the understaffing problems at U.S. nursing homes.

Speak With A Nursing Home Abuse And Neglect Attorney Today

If you believe that your loved one is suffering from medication errors or another form of neglect at their nursing home, contact Brown & Barron. Medication errors are a form of neglect or negligence and can be grounds for a lawsuit or insurance claim. Our team can work towards establishing liability. We can help you investigate the quality of care your loved one is receiving at their nursing home.

Don’t wait to get started on your case. In Maryland, the statute of limitations for a nursing home case is almost always three years from the date of injury. In limited circumstances, when an injury is not immediately known, the statute can be extended to three years from the time the injury was discovered. However, even with this extension, the lawsuit must be filed within five years from the date of the negligence. If you miss this deadline, you can’t file a lawsuit. Call our offices for a free no-obligation case review.

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