May 13, 2013

Medication Errors in Skilled Nursing Facilities

by Levin & Perconti

Long-term living locations catered to seniors are often referred to as “skilled nursing facilities” (nursing homes) and “assisted living facilities.” The basic distinction between these types of homes is the level of care provided to residents. Assisted living facilities provide only general aid, perhaps with meals, cleaning, laundry, and other day to day tasks. Conversely, skilled nursing facilities can provide actual medical care. Seniors with more serious health care issues usually need the support that is provided at a traditional nursing home instead of an assisted living facility.

However, the fact that skilled nursing facilities are able to provide some medical care also means that they may commit medical malpractice. One of the most common ways this happens is when nurses and aides make errors with regard to medication. Obviously many seniors in long-term care facilities rely on the various medications to help control different medical issues. When medication is not provided properly, serious harm can result.

A recent Legal Examiner story touched on that very issue. The article points to a study that we have referenced before from the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. That research project found a significant number of medication problem in nursing homes. As noted, the most eye-popping statistics from the research effort is that observers identified that about 21.2% of all dispensals of medication involved some error.

This is an alarming statistic on its face. There is simply no excuse for more than 2 out of every 10 cases of medication being provided to come with some error. Most regulatory agencies have caps on the amount of medication error levels that long-term care facilities are required to fall below. That rate is usually around 5 percent, which means that many facilities are not coming close to those standards. When a large number of facilities cannot meet common-sense safety benchmarks, we have a real problem.

Nursing Home Wrongful Death
Seniors are in nursing homes specifically because they have medical vulnerabilities. That means that mistakes related to their care can have more far-reaching impact than if the same mistake struck a younger, healthier individual. Caregivers know this, which is why they are required to act appropriately at all times to minimize the risk of preventable harm.

Sadly, that frequently does not happen, and lives are literally lost as a result. When that occurs, a nursing home wrongful death lawsuit may be filed to demand accountability. In the past these suits have been pursued for any number of errors, including giving the wrong medication to the wrong patient, providing the wrong dose to a resident, or forgetting to provide a critical medication at all.

In fact, the Legal Examiner story points to one Illinois case from earlier this year where a senior allegedly died as a result of a deadly medication combination. Neither the woman’s nursing home caregivers or doctor caught the problem, leading to her untimely and preventable death.

If a loved one that you know may have suffered ill-effects as the result of medication problems in a nursing home, please get in touch with our elder neglect attorneys to see how we can help.

See Other Blog Posts:

Arbitration Fairness Act of 2013 Introduced in Congress

Levin & Perconti Filed IL Nursing Home Lawsuit Against Applewood Rehabilitation Center