Omaha Nursing Home Medication Error Attorney
Medication errors are not rare in the United States. With over 10,000 prescription drugs available and, on average, one-third of adults taking five or more medications, it would be more surprising if no medication errors were made.
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The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that nearly 5% of all hospital patients experience an adverse drug reaction during treatment. In nursing homes, medication errors are also common. Elderly patients are at higher risk for adverse drug reactions, largely because they take more medications.
Most medication errors are minor do not cause harm, but some can be very dangerous—even life-threatening. If your loved one suffered injury, illness, or a worsening condition in a nursing home because of a mistake made while giving medications, you may have a legal claim.
Types of Medication Errors
Medication errors can happen in a few different ways. Some of the most common include:
- Incorrect medication: When a patient receives the wrong medication for an ailment. Such a mistake might happen because a nursing home staff member mixes up two different patients’ prescriptions, or when an error in prescribing or filling out a prescription occurs at the doctor’s office or pharmacy. The wrong medication can lead to numerous complications, especially in an elderly patient.
- Improper dosage: When a patient receives the correct medication, but in too large or small a dose. This particular error usually comes about from a nurse or staff member reading a decimal point wrong, or the doctor leaving unclear instructions. An overdose can be fatal or cause internal damage, and too low a dose will leave a patient struggling with the original ailment. It is also important that patients only receive medication for the correct period of time.
- Failure to medicate: When a patient does not receive any medication at all. This can be due to a medical provider’s failure to diagnose an illness or condition, or due to nursing home staff not giving a resident necessary medication in time. In some cases, staff members even steal drugs from those in their care.
- Allergic reactions: When the patient is allergic to an ingredient in the drug given. The prescribing doctor must take all patient allergies into consideration when prescribing medication, and patients should not be given any medication without first checking for allergies. Failing to do so can have terrible results.
- Drug interactions: When different medications interact with each other, causing adverse reactions. Unfortunately, drugs are overprescribed to many elderly patients, often without clinical need. When medical professionals fails to take all clinical factors into account when prescribing a drug, interactions can be very dangerous for a patient.
Since most Nebraska nursing homes are state-licensed skilled nursing facilities, they should have all the information they need about the residents in their care. What they don’t know, they should find out by speaking directly with the resident, family members, and medical professionals. Though nursing home staff is not responsible for prescribing medication to elderly patients, they are largely responsible for administering the medications, and many things can go wrong if utmost care is not taken to deliver the drugs properly.
Adverse Drug Reactions
Medication errors can cause a wide range of different complications and effects, from very mild to fatal. From dry mouth to going into anaphylactic shock, it can be difficult to pin down what symptom is caused by a specific medication error.
At the bare minimum, if a patient does not receive necessary medication, it can cause discomfort or complications when dealing with a disease. More serious issues can arise, including worsening of symptoms, organ or system damage, progression of an illness, or death. The side effects and potential damage really depend on the type of drug given and the patient's condition.
It is important to mention that many nursing homes in the United States have been found to give antipsychotic drugs to dementia and Alzheimer’s patients to keep them under control, without any clinical need or legitimate doctor’s prescription. Antipsychotic drugs like Risperdal, Seroquel, and Abilify carry the FDA’s black box warning, and lead to a higher risk of death in elderly dementia patients. This is considered a form of "chemical restraint" and is not legal.
When Medication Errors Fall Under Nursing Home Abuse
We often think of elder abuse as physical violence, intimidation, or verbal harassment, but it can take many different forms. Medication errors are generally a form of medical malpractice, but when they occur in a nursing home or assisted living facility, they may be considered elder abuse. For example, if nursing home management decides to understaff the facility, any medication errors that the residents suffer may be partially caused by the management’s negligence in not hiring enough staff members to give proper care to residents.
If you suspect that your loved one suffered a preventable adverse drug reaction while in a nursing home’s care, call Bottlinger Law L.L.C. Our Omaha nursing home lawyer provides compassionate guidance in these situations, and can sit down with you and your loved one to talk about your options. We will investigate what happened, and if it turns out that the nursing home or a staff member caused your loved one’s injury, we will file a claim for just compensation. Call (402) 505-8234 for a free consultation today.
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