One and a half million people are affected by medication errors each year. Of those, 100,000 die because of the error. Overall, this averages one medication error per patient per day in the United States. Each of these errors is made worse for patients in nursing homes who rely on their caretakers for their needs. If your loved one in a nursing home has fallen ill or died because of a medication error, you may want to contact a nursing home abuse attorney to protect your rights. An attorney can file a claim on your behalf and there is no fee until you receive compensation.


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Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

wrong-pillsMedications in a nursing home are usually distributed through what is known as the “med pass.” This med pass involves filling a cart with each patient’s medications and visiting each patient in a facility over the course of several hours. Because of the length of the med pass and how complicated packing the cart is – in addition to the great number of patients in some nursing homes – many medication errors happen during the med pass.

Causes of Nursing Home Medication Errors

Busy and distracted during the med pass, nursing home staffers can be responsible for many errors in medication. North Carolina, which records every medication error made in every nursing home in the state, has identified three major causes of medication errors.

  • Communication Errors – mistakes made when identifying patients who are on a drug with those who would injured by a drug, typically associated with the blood-thinning drug Warfarin
  • Transcription Errors – errors made when typing or copying notes made on a patient’s chart, usually associated with the antacid Nexium (esomeprazole), the antipsychotic Risperidal (rispiridone), and the antibiotic Nitrofuratonin.
  • Name Confusion – confusing the name of one medication for another, such as with the painkillers oxycodone and morphine.

Types of Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

missing-pillsThere are four types of common medication errors that happen in nursing homes, but also occur in other medical facilities.

  • Missed Dose – A patient fails to receive the medication that was prescribed by their doctor or other medical professional.
  • Overdose/Underdose – A patient receives a markedly smaller or larger amount of a drug than they were supposed to.
  • Wrong Strength /Patient – The proper drug is either administered to the wrong patient, or is administered with pills of the wrong amount (for example, a 10mg pill rather than a 5mg pill).
  • Wrong Product – Because of confusion as to which product was intended or a wrongly filled prescription – and the failure of the administering nurse to correct the error – the patient receives the wrong medication.

Examples of Medication Errors In Nursing Homes

syringeSome errors are more common than others – especially in the use of medications that are prescribed most often. Here are some examples and illustration of medication errors.

  • Patient Allergy – A patient is given a medication to which they have previously displayed an allergy. This can lead to symptoms from rash to anaphylactic shock.
  • Insulin – Among elderly diabetic patients, the wrong dosage of insulin can be fatal. One patient accidently received ten times the regular dose of insulin when “20 U” – meaning 20 units – was mistaken to mean “200” units.
  • Arthritis Medication – Certain medication for rheumatoid arthritis is also used in much higher doses as a cancer treatment. Receiving the wrong dose can be fatal.
  • Warfarin & Blood Thinners – many elderly patients are on blood thinners. If a medication error results in the wrong patient receiving blood thinners and anticoagulant medications, deadly internal bleeding can result.