Some of the most tragic cases of nursing home negligence involve medication errors. Not just because the error results in a severe injury or death of a patient, but because the errors were indeed so needless. Somewhere along the line from the time the doctors order was written to the time the medication was dispensed— or perhaps not– we frequently see errors made with respect to how medications are handled in nursing homes. Even innocent errors made by nursing home staff can wreck havoc on fragile patients who require strict adherence to their doctors medication orders.
For some reason, there seems to be a caviler attitude amongst some nurse some staff when it comes to dispensing medication to patients. Perhaps it’s the brightly colored pills or the fact that many staff members have become so accustomed to seeing a large percentage of patients taking the same medications? Regardless of the underlying reasoning, staff must be as diligent in their approach to medication dispensation as they are with providing other types of medical care for patients.
A prime example of the sloppy attitude towards the the dispensation of medication occurred recently at a Minnesota nursing home. After an investigation completed by state investigators, it was determined that a patient at Lake ridge Care Center missed 26 doses of a potassium replacement medication over a nine-day period.
After nine days without the potassium, she was admitted to a local hospital due to unresponsiveness. Shortly after her admission, doctors determined that her condition was related to a severely abnormal heart rhythm which was attributed to an extremely low level of potassium. Despite efforts to increase her potassium levels, the woman died from cardiac arrest.
Like many cases involving nursing home injury, this incident occurred during the initial time the woman was admitted to the facility. As a nursing home lawyer, I find that the initial period following an admission to a nursing home can be particularly troublesome for both patients and staff as both parties work to get acquainted.
Knowing the unfamiliarity with each other it is incumbent that patients and their families work with the facility to inform them of their needs and review conditions. Would such intervention have prevented this mix-up? Perhaps? Yet, when the basic needs of patients go ignored, such errors are probably representative of a larger underlying problem at the facility.
Medication errors tied to Buffalo nursing home death, Star Tribune, June 24, 2011, by Paul Walsh