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Medication Errors in Nursing Homes Can Be Deadly

Closeup of colorful prescription pills.

Nursing homes in Georgia and across the U.S. provide care to residents with various medical conditions and healthcare needs. Nursing home staff often administer medications to manage these conditions and promote residents' well-being. But sometimes, nursing homes make medication errors that lead to serious complications for residents.

Staff must administer the right medication to the right resident at the right dose, time, and route because medication errors carry the potential for severe and sometimes even life-threatening consequences. When they don't and a resident suffers harm as a result, it's crucial for families to be aware of their legal rights. An experienced nursing home neglect attorney can help you take action to hold the negligent facility responsible

What types of medications are administered in nursing homes?

The types of medications used can vary based on the specific needs of residents. Some common medication categories found in nursing homes include:

  • Pain management medications: These medications help relieve pain. They include opioids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and acetaminophen.
  • Cardiovascular medications: Nursing home residents may require medications to manage high blood pressure, heart disease, or other cardiovascular conditions. These can include beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics.
  • Psychotropic medications: Some residents may have depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, and other mental health conditions. These conditions often require antidepressants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, and mood stabilizers.
  • Anticoagulants and antiplatelet drugs: These medications prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. Common examples include warfarin, aspirin, and clopidogrel.
  • Diabetes medications: Nursing home residents with diabetes may require insulin or oral antidiabetic medications to help manage their blood sugar levels.
  • Respiratory medications: Residents with chronic respiratory conditions may require bronchodilators, corticosteroids, or other respiratory medications to manage their symptoms.
  • Gastrointestinal medications: Medications for acid reflux, ulcers, constipation, and diarrhea may be necessary. These include antacids, proton pump inhibitors, laxatives, and antidiarrheal drugs.
  • Neurological medications: Some residents may have epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and other neurological conditions. These conditions require medications to manage residents' symptoms and improve their quality of life.
  • Antibiotics: Residents may receive antibiotics to treat infections, which are common in nursing home settings due to the conditions and resident vulnerability.

How common are medication errors in nursing homes?

According to 11 studies conducted between 2000 and 2015, medication errors in nursing homes are common. While research shows a low impact on residents, the consequences can still be serious and potentially fatal. The studies were compiled, and their findings were published in the American Journal of Medical Care (AJMC).

Three medication error categories examined in the studies include:

  • All medication errors: This affected between 16% and 27% of all residents involved in the studies.
  • Medication errors related to transfers: Transfer errors impacted about 13% to 31% of residents in the studies.
  • Inappropriate medications: About 75% of residents received at least one inappropriate medication prescription.

Examples of medication errors in nursing homes

Medication errors can occur in nursing homes despite stringent safety protocols and staff training. These errors can have serious consequences for residents' health and well-being. Here are some examples of common medication errors in nursing homes:

  • Administering a medication with a similar name to the one prescribed.
  • Providing too much or too little of a medication.
  • Administering a medication by the wrong route (e.g., giving an oral medication intravenously).
  • Giving a medication at the wrong time, which can disrupt the therapeutic effect of the drug or lead to overdose.
  • Forgetting to administer a scheduled dose of medication, potentially compromising a resident's treatment.
  • Failing to recognize potential drug interactions when multiple medications are prescribed to a resident.
  • Giving medication to a resident without their informed consent or without obtaining the necessary consent from a legal guardian or healthcare proxy.
  • Failing to monitor a resident for side effects or adverse reactions after administering a medication.
  • Double dosing due to poor communication among staff members.

What are my legal options if a loved one was harmed by a medication error?

Nursing home staff and management have an obligation to administer medications correctly. When they fail to do so, it can result in adverse effects and even fatal consequences. If your loved one was harmed due to a medication error in a Georgia nursing home, The Law Office of George S. Johnson is here to help.

Our law firm can investigate the nursing home, find the facts that matter, and build a strong case for the justice and financial compensation your family deserves. To see how an experienced nursing home neglect lawyer can help with your potential legal case, contact us today to review your legal options. Our office is in Decatur, and we proudly serve clients throughout Georgia.

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