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Nursing Home Medication Error Lawyer
The nursing home staff can harm or kill residents when improperly administering prescription drugs. The staff will likely administer a resident's medications in different ways in pill form, injection, or medication patch
While some medication errors might not be considered life-threatening, in some instances, long-term care facilities will either give the prescription medication incorrectly or will give residents the wrong medicine.
Medication administration errors could cause severe injury and place residents' lives in danger. Even worse, skilled nursing facilities might fail to give residents their drugs, putting them in jeopardy of physical harm (nursing home abuse, medical malpractice).
Medication mistakes that injure or kill nursing home residents are legally actionable and might be evidence of negligence. If you can prove that your family member suffered injury from a facility's error, you might be entitled to financial compensation.
A Nursing Home Medication Errors Attorney Can Help
A nursing home making medication errors might use tactics to deny the staff made a mistake or claim that their failure to administer the drugs properly caused the resident's injury or death. The network-affiliated personal injury attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center LLC can help.
Schedule a free case evaluation with our personal injury lawyers at (888) 424-5757 today to discuss financial compensation to resolve your injury case.
Why Medication Errors Occur in Skilled Nursing Facilities
As mentioned above, not all types of medication errors are the same. Federal regulations contemplate that homes might make minor medication errors in administering medications to their residents.
Skilled nursing facilities will receive a health citation on their federal inspection if their medication complication rate exceeds five percent.
Facilities that make occasional mistakes might not always be violating laws and regulations.
Here are some examples of minor medication errors that might fall within the five percent limit:
- Giving a medication a few minutes outside of the time window
- Not giving the resident the last few drops of a medication (under dose)
- Drug interactions
- Prescribing drugs contraindicated for the patient's underlying medical conditions
- Medical professionals not correctly mixing the medication
- Not having eye drops contact with the eye for a long enough period
Here are some examples of serious errors that could lead to a health citation:
- The most obvious error is giving the resident the wrong medication
- Leaving the medication in a cup in front of patients and not verifying that it was taken
- Injecting medication into the wrong area
- Giving the patient expired medication
- Administering the wrong dosage of the medication
- Prescribing the wrong medication prescription
Dire Consequences of a Medication Negligence in a Long-Term Care Setting
Severe errors in medication dispensation can cause tremors, comas, confusion, and other side effects.
In a worst-case scenario, they can kill the resident. Alternatively, failure to prescribe or administer the proper medication can cause your loved one to suffer needless pain and suffering.
Statistics on Medication Errors in Nursing Homes
Most people do not realize precisely how many people die or are injured each year from medication complications. Approximately 1.5 million people in the United States suffer harm from prescription drug medication errors each year.
It is estimated that 800,000 of those injuries occur in nursing facilities, where the residents are elderly or infirm. Nearly a quarter of a million Americans die each year from medical mistakes.
While not all of these deaths are the result of negligence, they make up a large part of this overall total.
Why Drug Medication Errors Happen So Frequently in Nursing Facilities
Training and staffing levels are two significant contributors to the prevalence of drug errors in elder care facilities. Many homes, especially those owned by the largest chains, have been known to keep staffing levels low to maximize their profits.
Some homes cut staffing rosters to dangerously low levels that do not allow them to provide the appropriate care level. Administering medications is one of the more time-intensive tasks that nurses have, and it takes up a large part of their day.
Each medication run that a nurse makes can take between two and four hours, depending on how many residents must be helped and the effort needed to administer the medicine. In many instances, a medication error is a function of having too few nurses.
Given that medications must be administered within a specific timeframe, overstretched nurses might be rushing to give elderly patients their medications within the required time.
Lack of staff member training might also be a contributing factor. Different states have varying requirements for who might be allowed to give patients medications. Some states require that nurses be the ones who administer the medicine.
Other states allow other staff to perform the function, albeit under the nurse's supervision, to ensure it is performed correctly. However, mistakes still happen.
Some facilities will also minimize training levels at times to maximize profitability. However, untrained CNAs or other staff might not have the necessary skills and abilities to adhere to this task's required level of precision.
Nursing Home Medication Error Injuries FAQs
Below are some frequently asked questions related to medication errors in nursing homes. Should you have additional questions, contact our nursing home abuse lawyers for a free consultation.
What to Do If a Medication Error Occurs at a Nursing Home?
Registered nurses and licensed practical nurses in nursing facilities make medical accidents through clinical oversight, a failure to provide the right drug or dosage, or not following a doctor's prescription to give the drug to the patient as ordered.
The caregiver must follow specific steps after making a medical mistake, including:
- Informing the patient and the patient's family of the significant clinical oversight
- Notifying the nursing home and care team to prepare for an immediate adverse event involving the patient should it occur
- Document the mistake and report what happened to the facility's safety committee to prevent any further complication when providing the resident's care
What Happens When a Nurse Makes Medication Errors With Nursing Home Residents?
Unfortunately, drug mistakes often occur in nursing home settings. Registered nurses and licensed practical nurses make errors when transcribing, dispensing, and administering the drugs to patients whose care must always be a priority.
Nurses must self-report any medication mistake to their supervisors, the Director of Nursing, and the facility. The Director must then report the incident to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and state surveyors within hours to ensure a comprehensive investigation is completed.
What Is Considered a Medication Error in a Nursing Home Patient?
According to the National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention, medication mistakes involve "any preventable event that might cause or lead to inappropriate medication use or patient harm while the medication is in the control of the health care professional, patient, or consumer."
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) handles more than 100,000 reported cases of suspected drug medication errors each year. Many of these drug accidents in nursing home residents result in:
- Wrongful death
- Congenital disability
- Life-threatening situations
How Can a Nurse Become Negligent with Medication Administration?
Registered nurses and licensed practical nurses must follow established standards of care when administering medications to a patient in nursing homes.
The nurses receive training to ensure that the right drug is administered to the right patient, through the right route, at the right dose, during the right time.
However, nurses are negligent when administering drugs when not understanding what was prescribed or not appropriately administering the drug. The caregiver could also fail to document the drug administered or any adverse reactions, including allergies.
What Are the Consequences of Medication Errors in Nursing Home Residents?
Receiving the wrong drug could create life-threatening consequences or temporary/permanent adverse reactions, including skin disfigurement, rashes, and itching. In severe cases, the patient might have irreversible brain damage or wrongful death.
Any failure to administer the medication properly could have been caused by:
- A lack of training
- No knowledge or experience with the drug
- A lack of communication between healthcare professionals
- Failing to understand the patient's medical history
- Inadequate or limited policies, protocols, and procedures
- Failing to monitor and administer the medication appropriately
How Often Do Medication Errors in Nursing Homes Go Unreported?
According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately one-third of reported adverse drug events were caused by a medication mistake in a hospital or nursing home setting. The Journal of Patient Safety revealed that the nursing staff understands the value of informing the facility of a medical mistake but are often conflicted about filing a report.
One study revealed that approximately one-fourth of all surveyed nurses admitted they failed to report a medication error the previous year. Some medical researchers believe a stigma associated with nurses causes significant problems when administering medications and correctly.
While mistakes will occur in nursing home residents, the nursing facility's Nursing Director must hold the nurse accountable for their reckless behavior without punishment.
Sample Nursing Home Medication Error Lawsuits & Settlement For Serious Injury and Wrongful Death
A nursing home medication error lawsuit is a proper recourse when your loved one has experienced a medication administration mistake's damaging effects.
Your medication errors attorney must prove that the error happened and was the "proximate cause" of your loved one's injury.
Below are some examples of successfully filed and resolved lawsuits with financial recoveries paid by nursing facilities and their insurers.
Jury Verdict for $1.4 million Against a Utah Nursing Home
A nurse gave the patient the wrong medication. Instead of calling attention to the medication error and helping ensure that the resident was treated for the effects of the improper medication, the facility concealed what had happened, resulting in the resident's death.
Both the caregiver and the facility were found responsible for the death, and each party was apportioned payment of the jury's award. When the nurse declared bankruptcy, the facility was ordered to pay the entire verdict.
Jury Verdict for $1.5 million in New York
A nurse accidentally gave the patient a fatal dose of morphine they mixed with the resident's applesauce. The prescribed medication belonged to a different resident that was mistakenly given to the decedent.
The decedent had resided in a portion of the nursing facility without an electronic medication monitoring system that was likely partially to blame for their death. The nurse had identified the resident, who had dementia, by asking him if his name was that of the resident who was supposed to receive the morphine.
Settlement for $50,000 in Pennsylvania
The nursing home staff was supposed to administer the resident their prescribed 5 mg daily of an antidepressant. However, through a clerical mistake, they gave the elderly patient 20 mg (four times the dosage).
After a hospital stay, the resident returned to the facility and received antidepressant dosages of 40 mg per day, causing severe side effects.
The resident suffered from the medication mistake involving increased tremors, increased forgetfulness, blurred vision, mobility problems, weight loss, attention, concentration, and speech problems.
Settlement for $375,000 in California
According to the nursing home negligence lawsuit, the staff at the nursing home gave the plaintiff three doses of Risperdal, eight doses of Xanax, an injection of Haldol, an injection of Risperdal Consta, and seven doses of Ambien. The resident claimed that he was given these antipsychotic drugs against his will.
As a result of the medication, the resident suffered from delirium and short-term paralysis, resulting in a one-month hospital stay to treat these conditions. California law requires that the physician must obtain informed consent from the resident before administering psychotropic medications.
Settlement for $850,000 in Illinois
A nursing home resident was awaiting a liver transplant that would be performed at a local hospital. The lawsuit claims that a nurse at the facility mistakenly administered the resident's roommate's medication to him, resulting in a hypoglycemic coma that caused the resident permanent brain damage.
The lawsuit further alleged that the nurse failed to tell the resident's physician of the medication error, which would have resulted in more timely treatment.
Verdict for $15,000,000 in North Carolina
The care home intentionally withheld the resident's prescribed morphine from him. Instead of giving him the medication necessary to ease his pain at the end of his life, the nursing facility administered a placebo, causing the dying resident pain and agony.
The resident was supposed to be administered morphine every three to four hours but instead received no morphine for three days.
Is Your Loved One the Victim of a Medication Error in a Nursing Home? Get Legal Help Now
There is a strong chance that your loved one has experienced a medication error while living at a skilled nursing facility. You need a nursing home negligence lawyer who knows which medication errors are legally actionable and how to fight the nursing facility to recover compensation for your family.
The medication error attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center have a track record of standing up to the nursing centers and assisted-living facilities that harm residents and try to escape the consequences.
Call our law firm today at (800) 926-7565 (toll-free phone call) or through the contact form to schedule a free consultation. All discussions with our nursing home abuse lawyers remain confidential through an attorney-client relationship.
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