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Fort Pierce Nursing Home Medication Errors Can Lead to Serious Injury, Illness and Death

When dolling out medications to nursing home patients, doctors, nurses and pharmacists must be vigilant in ensuring the medication type, dose and timing is proper.

Unfortunately, there are so many different points at which a Fort Pierce nursing home medication error might occur. Perhaps an anti-psychotic drug is unnecessary. Maybe the amount is far too high or interacts poorly with another medication already being received. In some cases, doses might be skipped altogether.

When these incidents result in serious injury or death, experienced legal counsel can best help you determine your legal rights.

A recent case out of Chicago illustrates the devastating impact of these mistakes. There, according to recent news reports, a nursing home patient was diagnosed with a type of abdominal cancer and initially responded well to the medication he was given to treat it.

However, as the better part of a year wore on, his health began to decline. He lost weight. He couldn’t eat.

When his family pressed for an answer, they discovered that his caretakers at the nursing home had failed to give him his cancer medication – for a full year. By the time the error was discovered, it was too late. The cancer had spread. He died a short time later.

According to the American Medical Directors’ Association, the “vast majority” of medication errors at nursing homes involve one of the following:
–Lack of assessment;
–Lack of monitoring for efficacy;
–Lack of reassessment for continuous need;
–Lack of monitoring for adverse drug reactions;
–Lack of recognition of adverse drug reactions;
–Attribution of adverse drug reactions to other causes.

The organization indicated that physicians and pharmacists often aren’t properly educated or trained in the principles of geriatric assessment and pharmacology, which is a big part of why these incidents occur.

Additionally, physicians overseeing long-term care operations are often incredibly pressed for time and resources. There is often a low reimbursement rate for nursing home patients, even though there is often a high demand.

We expect this problem to grow in the coming years, as the population continues to age and nursing homes continue to suffer from staffing problems. Medical staffers that are overworked are not only more likely to commit medication errors, they are less likely to catch them early on.

Plus, many nursing home residents are already coping with compromised immune systems and overall weakened health. This means that an error from which a younger patient might easily bounce back could have a profoundly negative impact on someone who is much older and is already receiving around-the-clock care.

Some physicians and facilities have worked to reduce the chance of an error by digitizing the prescription orders and scanning them through systems that flag potentially dangerous combinations or doses before they reach the patient. While a lot of hospitals have invested in this technology, nursing homes have been a bit slower to implement it.

All nursing homes by law are required to maintain medication error rates below 5 percent. However, it’s not unheard of for facilities to exceed this (in Illinois, reporters recently uncovered a statewide medication error rate of 9 percent at nursing homes). And, while 5 percent may seem small, consider how many medications are prescribed at a single nursing home in a given day. In a 100-bed facility, we could talking as many as five errors a day or more.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Nursing Home Medication Errors Leading to Hospitalizations, Feb. 4, 2014, By Chris Coffey, NBC5, Chicago

More Blog Entries:
Florida Nursing Home Fires Can Result in Liability Lawsuit, Feb. 5, 2014, Fort Pierce Nursing Home Negligence Lawyer Blog

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