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Medication Error in Nursing Home Led to Resident’s Death

The Chicago nursing home neglect lawyers at our firm have learned from experience that in more cases than not, seniors are hurt because of preventable oversights. This is much different than intentional abuse. Of course, the intentional physical, sexual, emotional, and financial exploitation of seniors can and does occur much more often than acceptable. However, cases of simple oversight, accidents, and short-sightedness are even more common in these facilities. Unfortunately, the consequences of these lapses in care can be just as deadly as intentional harm.

For example, the Post Examiner reported yesterday on an incidence of nursing home neglect involving medication given (and not given) to a senior resident. According to the story, an 84-year old nursing home resident was killed as an apparent result of the staff members’ failure at the home where he lived to ensure his proper medication usage. The man was in need of a crucial anxiety drug to survive. However, for reasons yet unclear, the man did not receive that drug for a total of ten days. Then, compounding the error, he received ten times the normal dosage in one setting. He died not long after. While the technical cause of death of the man was ruled chronic lung disease, an investigator involved in the manner reported that it is more than possible that the overdose of lorazepam was involved in the man’s passing. Obviously the blatant mishandling of medication in this manner is an example of nursing home neglect. Ensuring that receiving receive timely medication in a proper manner is a very basic task of these caregivers.

Amazingly, the man’s family was never made aware of these issues. It was only last week, five months after the passing that journalists talking with the family told them of the situation. An investigation by the health department in to this specific case found that the man’s death was preceded by at least 26 omitted doses of lorazepam. Apparently the mistakes were a combination of errors made by a variety of employees over several days. On top of that, there were medication accountability problems at these facilities, with doses of drugs gone from the staff’s supply without any apparent reason or record of where they might have gone.

Beyond the overdose concerns, there are also questions about why the family was not notified of the problem. As the victim’s nephew, who has a power of attorney over his affairs, explained, “When you have no idea about that, you take their word for it.” Had the family known, they could have ordered an autopsy. State law requires facilities to inform the friends and family members of these residents when a change in their condition was caused by a medication error. The nursing home staff in this case claims that they abided by the law and told the family of the mistake.

The case was part of an on-going investigation into chronic substandard care at many of these homes, including repeated medication errors. Our Illinois nursing home attorneys have sadly seen many facilities where mistreatment has become the daily practice. It is difficult for any resident of these chronically problematic homes to receive the care they need day in and day out. All friends and family members should keep a close eye on their loved one’s treatment at these facilities and be prepared to step in and take action if necessary.

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