Nursing Home Medication Errors: Why They Happen

March 14, 2024 / RP Legal

A nursing home medication error should never happen. Unfortunately, they occur all the time, affecting numerous nursing home residents each year.

The fact that the nursing home made the mistake of administering the wrong medication may be enough to qualify your family for compensation. Still, a plaintiff needs to get a complete picture of what happened so they can build a stronger legal case against the nursing home.

The Columbia nursing home abuse attorneys at Rikard & Protopapas work to get justice for injured long-term care residents and their families. Call us today to discuss your legal case.

Nursing Home Medication Errors Are Prevalent

Research suggests that more than one in four nursing home residents have been a victim of medication errors. This figure may even be a conservative estimate, as some medication errors may go entirely unnoticed.

In other cases, another medical condition may be considered the cause of an injury, as opposed to the medication error. Not only may the nursing home commit medical negligence with medications, but they may also intentionally use medication as a means to control or punish their residents. Your loved one depends on these medications, and the nursing home must get it right.

Examples of Nursing Home Medication Errors

Nursing home residents are almost always prescribed a list of medications. These medications must be given in specific doses, and at specific times of the day, in order to be effective.

In addition, doctors must be very careful about what they prescribe, in light of the resident’s condition and other medications that they are taking.

Examples of nursing home medication errors include:

  • Dosage omission: This is the most common type of medication error in a nursing home. The nurse may forget to give a vital dose of medication to a resident. Some medications are crucial, and even missing one dose can jeopardize a resident’s health.
  • Dosage errors: The staff may not give enough of a certain medication to a resident, or they may give a dose that is far too strong. Overdoses and underdoses are the second and third-most common nursing home medication errors, respectively.
  • Medication conflicts: The prescribing doctor may not realize that two of the medications that they prescribe cannot be taken together by the same patient. For example, those with high blood pressure should not be given an asthma rescue inhaler. Some of these drug interactions may even be fatal.
  • Wrong resident: The nurse on their rounds must give medication to many different residents. It is easy for them to give a wrong pill to the wrong person, who may then suffer a serious reaction. Nurses must be extremely vigilant to ensure that they give the correct medications to the right residents.
  • Wrong medication: The nurse may not give the proper medication to the resident. As a result, they are both missing a vital dose of the medication that they need, and they are vulnerable to a severe reaction to a foreign medication.

Staffing Levels and Poor Training Often Leads to Nursing Home Medication Errors

Most medication mistakes are attributed to basic human error. When staff is not appropriately trained, or they are stressed and overworked, they are more likely to make mistakes. These errors can turn deadly in an instant.

Nursing homes are on a constant mission to lower their own operating costs. At their core, nursing homes are for-profit facilities, looking to make as much money as possible. One of the main ways that nursing homes look to economize is by artificially cutting back on staff whenever possible.

Only registered nurses are allowed to administer medications to residents, so errors can be prevented. The problem is that nursing homes often do not have enough RNs because these are the nurses who are paid the most.

If they have more staff, it is the form of CNAs, who make less money and are not allowed to administer medications. The RNs that are on staff are often very stretched and being pulled in many different directions. They may not be focused when giving medications to residents.

Medication Errors May Actually Be Intentional Abuse in a Nursing Setting

Besides making medication errors, nursing homes may use medication as a form of abuse. One common form of nursing home abuse is using a chemical restraint.

In an effort to control a resident who requires the most attention, or presents issues for staff, nursing homes may administer sedatives or antipsychotic drugs to make a resident more docile.

It is illegal for nursing homes to use medications to restrain the movement or freedom of a resident.

Some nursing homes may withhold medication as a form of abuse. They may threaten a resident who they view as difficult to not give needed medication as a punishment. The resident, who needs the medication, may become more compliant. Their health may suffer, and they will be in more discomfort if the nursing home withholds the medication.

You Must Remain Vigilant for Signs of Nursing Home Abuse

As the family, you may be the one who has to detect whether the nursing home is using drugs as abuse. If your loved one is unusually subdued or quiet, it may be a sign that they have been administered antipsychotic drugs.

You should periodically have a conversation with nursing home staff about your loved one’s medications, so you know what they are taking.

Contact a Columbia Medication Error Attorney Today

If your loved one has been injured by nursing home neglect or abuse, you can hold the facility accountable for what they did and get the answers that you did. Your family may qualify for financial compensation for how your loved one suffered. The attorneys at Rikard & Protopapas can lead your fight for justice after a medication error.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers, you can send us a message online, or you can call us today at 803-978-6111. There is no fee unless you win.

Contact Us

"*" indicates required fields

By providing your phone number, you agree to receive text messages from Rikard & Protopapas. Message and data rates may apply. Message frequency varies.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Rikard & Protopapas Logo

Available 24/7

Contact Us

"*" indicates required fields

By providing your phone number, you agree to receive text messages from Rikard & Protopapas. Message and data rates may apply. Message frequency varies.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.