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Nursing Homes Abuse Blog By Jonathan Rosenfeld

Medication Errors

Errors in dispensing medicationMedication errors in inpatient medical facilities such as nursing homes are so commonplace that they are recognized as a common problem in the medical field. The facility’s medication error rate is identified by state inspectors who have to ensure that the error rate of medication errors be kept below an acceptable or standard percentage. While it is positive to note that state inspectors are keeping track, we also have to be realistic and wonder how many errors go unreported.

Dealing with these issues

It is true that minor medicine errors are inevitable. Especially when dealing with elderly patients, staff members may sometimes be confused about what medication is required. However, it is important to refrain from any severe medication errors. When looking at the definition, medication errors are mistakes that happen while administering or preparing medicine. This goes against accepted professional standards, manufacturer’s instructions, or doctor’s orders.

Examples of medication errors

To the untrained eye, it may be difficult to determine whether something qualifies as a medication error. However, once you have a better understanding of what constitutes a medication error, it is easier to be aware of them.

  • Splitting medications that should not be split – These include tablets, capsules, or other types of medication that specifically say, “Do not crush.”
  • Not having enough fluid – There are countless prescription medications that require the elderly patient to consume a certain amount of fluid when ingesting the medication. Improper hydration or not taking in fluid when taking the medication may actually cause harm to the patient.
  • Inadequate antacids or food – Just as some prescriptions require fluid, others require food. There are also medications that require the patient to take an antacid before ingesting the medication. It is important that the nursing staff ensure that patients follow the recommended guidelines regarding antacids, fluids, and food.
  • Not preparing the medication properly – There are a number of nursing home medications that require that it be shaken or mixed before the patient takes it. Without following the proper procedure, the resident is at risk of receiving too much or too little of the medication. For example, it is important to mix insulin suspensions without air bubbles before administering the medication.
  • Swallowing sublingual tablets – Sublingual tablets are administered by placing them underneath the tongue and allowing them to dissolve. However, some elderly patients will swallow these sublingual tablets instead. While once or twice might not be terrible, it is important that the staff recognize this is happening and address this as a reoccurring issue. Perhaps the medication needs to be altered to ensure proper ingestion.

Negligent errors

Because many nursing home facilities do not have enough staff members, it can lead to staff members feeling overworked or not paying attention to the small details. It may also cause them to feel rushed when administering medication. Some of the negligent medication errors include:

  • Outdated, or expired, elder medication order
  • Errors with lab work
  • Incorrect elder patient or documentation
  • Incorrect elder medication administration technique
  • Incorrect rate, duration, or time of medication administration
  • Using expired medication
  • Medication overdose or multiple doses
  • Medication dose omission or under dose

While a single wrong dosage is not likely to cause severe problems in most cases, if it happens consistently, it could lead to serious medical problems, possibly even death. If you suspect medication errors for your loved one, it is important to speak out to ensure that appropriate steps be taken to avoid these mistakes in the future.


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