Prescription Errors and Nursing Homes: The Hidden Danger
Bringing a parent or other loved one into the care of a nursing home or other assisted-living facility is often one of the most difficult decisions anyone will undertake. All sorts of emotions rise to the surface: Guilt and shame because we’re unable to provide the sort of care our loved one needs, worry over finances and other practicalities, and concern over the strangers we’re putting our trust in.
Even in the best facilities, mistakes can be made, and one of the hidden dangers in many nursing homes and similar facilities is prescription errors. With so many residents to supervise, many with complex conditions that require a plethora of medications, often with changing and shifting dosages, it’s very easy for common errors to lead to serious illness or even death.
Types of Prescription Error
One of the reasons prescription errors in nursing homes is such a risk has to do with the wide variety of errors that can be made:
- Dosage errors, where a medication is quite simply administered in the incorrect amount, resulting either in a resurgence of symptoms (low dose) or possibly serious illness and death (overdose).
- Incorrect medication, administered due to a similarity of generic or trade name.
- Omission, where necessary medications are not given as prescribed.
Because of the variety of potential problems, prescription errors can be very prevalent in nursing homes.
The Real Danger
However, the biggest cause for concern is often hidden: Studies that tracked prescription errors have shown that nearly 40% of facilities that had prescription errors of some sort were repeat offenders. Put simply, while many people are tempted to regard prescription errors that cause illness or even death as isolated tragedies, the fact is they are often merely the ‘worst-case scenario’ of an ongoing problem in the facility.
While facilities can – and certainly should – take effective steps to prevent future prescription errors, one of the most effective steps that can be taken is to hold facilities responsible for their errors by bringing charges and legal action against them. The high rate of repeat problems demonstrates that facilities lack an ability to identify endemic problems with their own staffs and internal procedures. This sort of blindness to problems leads to multiple incidents and ultimately unnecessary injuries and death. Consulting with attorneys and taken facilities to task for their mistakes forces facilities and companies in the business of caring for our older family to assign a dollar amount to these terrible incidents, which unfortunately is often the only way to get their attention and commitment to fixing underlying problems.
If you or a loved one has suffered through a prescription error, whether at a facility or through a local pharmacist or hospital, consult an attorney immediately – not just for yourself, but for everyone else who might come under care there. We’re always happy to discuss cases – contact us today.