“Chronic Understaffing in Nursing Homes and the Impacts on Healthcare” 1.
“It’s just a form of neglect”: Nursing homes face severe staffing shortages, putting elderly at risk” 2.
“Most US nursing homes are understaffed, potentially compromising health care for more than a million elderly residents” 3.
“Nursing home staff shortage left residents in ‘serious harm.’” 4.
Dozens of similar headlines stream across news feeds on a regular basis.
As we pointed out in, Private Equity Investment In Nursing Homes – Good For Business, Bad For Residents, families trust nursing homes to provide their elderly loved ones with the skilled medical care and assistance they need. Many families opt to place their loved ones in a nursing home because they themselves aren’t capable of providing the same level of care that skilled nurses are. The unfortunate reality is that avoidable mistakes, made by the very people entrusted to care for our older family members, are much more common than you might think.
The reason for this stems largely from the shortage of nursing staff and the compounding harmful effect of fewer nurses and a growing elderly population. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses refers to the inadequate staffing of nurses as “an epic catch-22”, going on to say that understaffed facilities rely heavily on their nurses to take on an impossible workload, leading to burnout and turnover. In Massachusetts alone, there is a 47.1% annual nursing staff turnover in long-term care facilities
With this level of turmoil in the industry, how can you be sure our loved ones are properly cared for? Unfortunately, the short answer is: you can’t. And one of the biggest areas of concern is medication errors.
Medication Errors in Nursing Homes Cost Lives
Consider these alarming facts:
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) receives more than 100,000 U.S. reports each year associated with a suspected medication error
- An estimated 800,000 preventable medication‐related injuries occur every year in long‐term care facilities in the U.S.
- According to the American Journal of Managed Care, up to 27% of nursing home patients have been victims of medication errors.
When advocating for your loved one in a nursing home or skilled nursing facility, we urge you to be aware of these ten most common medication errors:
- Giving a medication to the wrong patient
- Giving a patient the wrong medication
- Prescribing, preparing, or administering the wrong dose
- Ignoring patient medical histories, including allergies
- Disregarding a patient’s current renal or liver function
- Neglecting to spot transcription or pharmacist errors
- Failing to understanding potential drug interactions
- Administering medications incorrectly
- Preparing the medication improperly
- Giving expired medications
While not every medication error is serious, some can have deadly consequences. The various levels of checks and balances should prevent medication errors, so why do they happen?
Why Do Medication Errors In Nursing Homes Happen?
In theory, there should be three lines of defense against any type of medication error: the person who writes the prescription (the doctor), the person who fills the prescription (pharmacist), and the person dispensing the medication (the nurse). Unfortunately, the blame for any type of medication-related error often falls to the nursing staff since they are the one dispensing the medication. Mistakes in the workplace can happen for any number of reasons but are most often exacerbated by:
- High levels of distraction: As noted, many skilled nurses face stressful and hectic working conditions, often asked to go above and beyond when carrying out their duties. A heavy workload and an increasing number of patients under their care can lead to distraction.
- Lack of experience: Critical thinking skills that alert a more experienced nurse to the possibility of a transcription error, dosage mistakes, or potential adverse drug interactions are often lacking in younger, less experienced nursing staff.
- Subpar physical spaces: The physical environment of a nursing home, such as poor lighting, inadequate heating or cooling, and lack of cleanliness can also contribute to errors.
Understanding why mistakes occur, however, does little to ease the pain and suffering of those injured by medication errors and their families.
How Can You Help Your Loved One In A Nursing Home?
We recommend researching the current staffing levels at the facility you are considering and determining if there is a potential history of neglect or abuse. Consider using the Star Rating System to find and compare Medicare-certified nursing homes based on location, and compare the quality of care they provide and their staffing. It’s important to monitor your loved one’s care and advocate for them while they are staying at the facility. Make sure all instructions are clear and ask questions if something doesn’t seem right or if you don’t understand certain procedures. And be sure to provide the staff with all necessary medical information so that they are familiar with your loved one’s history and current condition.
An Experienced Nursing Home Abuse And Neglect Attorney Can Help
We have seen first-hand the devastating consequences of medication errors in nursing homes. Our clients have suffered a number of catastrophic injuries, from kidney failure as a result of an overdose of diuretics, to death as a result of being administered the wrong dose of their medication.
If you know of or suspect nursing home abuse or neglect in the form of a medication error, our attorneys can help. If you or a loved one has experienced adverse consequences due to a medication error in a nursing home, you have the right to file a lawsuit to recover damages and compensation. Our skilled and knowledgeable team will stand with you to protect your rights and make sure that you recover the full and fair compensation to which you are entitled.
If you want to file a claim or have questions about suing a nursing home, a competent and experienced Boston nursing home neglect lawyer is ready to talk to you. You can contact us online anytime or call (866) 405-2492 to schedule a free consultation. We’ll be happy to evaluate your case and discuss what we can do to help you.
Headlines appeared in:
2. CBS News
4. Fox News