Medication errors are frequent in nursing home settings. A study published in the journal Clinical Management of the Older Adult reports that as many as 16 to 31 percent of nursing home residents experience medication errors.
The most common medication error in nursing homes is incorrect dosage, when residents receive less medication than prescribed, more medication than prescribed, receive the medication at incorrect times, or receive it without the necessary accompanying food and water. Incorrect dosage can also be a result of administering a medication in the wrong manner (such as ingesting eyedrops), or administering the wrong medication altogether.
While incorrect dosage in nursing homes is most often accidental, this error can still be considered medical malpractice or medical negligence. If you believe you or your loved one suffered from incorrect dosage in a nursing home, a lawyer may be able to help you find justice.
Types of Dosage Errors
Incorrect medication dosage is a frequently occurring error in nursing homes. The most common reasons for patients to receive an incorrect dose of medicine include:
Some of the incorrect dosage in nursing homes is due to physician error. A doctor may accidentally prescribe the wrong amount of medication for a patient to receive, because of simple error or because they did not take the time to adequately understand the patient’s history and needs.
Another common cause of dosage errors is transcription, or how prescriptions are written out. For instance, if decimal points and zeroes are not written clearly, a patient might receive 10 milligrams of a medication instead of 1.0 milligrams or 0.1 milligrams. An error might also occur due to poor handwriting or incorrect typing.
Each time staff administers a medication to a nursing home resident, they should correctly note the time, medication, and dosage in the patient’s chart. An incorrect chart entry or a delay in entering this information may lead to the patient receiving more or less medication than prescribed.
Other Accidental Errors
Most dosage and other medication errors are not malicious. According to Allied Academies, the leading cause of medication errors is the lack of pharmacological knowledge of nursing staff members. While medications are prescribed by doctors, they are typically administered by nurses, who may not have the ability to perceive when there might be an error.
There are a variety of reasons and ways a nurse or other health care professional might incorrectly administer medicine, such as:
- Understaffing causing caregivers to rush or be unable to properly care for patients.
- The complexity of prescriptions, since the elderly often take numerous medications.
- Failing to give the patient enough to drink or eat with their medication.
- Using an incorrect administration technique, such as orally instead of topically.
- Administering prescribed medication to the wrong patient.
- Mislabeled or mispackaged medications.
Frequent understaffing, a high number of patients, and the complexity of multiple prescriptions can easily lead to many unintentional medication errors.
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Intentional Incorrect Dosage
While most medication errors are simply accidents, sometimes nursing staff may intentionally overmedicate residents or withhold medication from nursing home residents. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that many nursing homes overmedicate residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia by giving them unprescribed antipsychotics.
Administering antipsychotics typically makes these patients, who are often difficult, more docile, and compliant. Overworked or uncaring workers might intentionally overmedicate patients to keep them calm and reduce their own stress.
Another reason for intentional incorrect dosage is that staff may under medicate patients or completely withhold medication if they plan to steal the drugs to use themselves or to sell for a profit.
The Danger of Dosing Errors
Receiving the wrong amount of medication can be very dangerous. Nursing home residents who suffer from incorrect dosage may experience a variety of symptoms and reactions, including:
- Lethargy or exhaustion
- Failure to improve
- Worsening condition
- New illnesses
- Toxic buildup
- Organ failure
- Dependence on medication or addiction
- Chronic pain
- Other medical complications
If you believe that you or your loved one is a victim of incorrect dosage in nursing homes, you may have a legal right to pursue compensation. All health care providers should be held to the highest standards, and it is especially important to protect vulnerable populations like the elderly.
Incorrect dosage is most often categorized as medical negligence. Medical negligence is when a health care professional makes a mistake which results in the failure to provide the standard of care. Medical malpractice, on the other hand, involves the intent of the health care professional to not provide the standard of care. Proving medical negligence or malpractice involves obtaining all of a patient’s medical records and usually requires hiring a medical expert.
The team at Ben Crump Law, PLLC can fight for you and your loved one to receive justice after suffering from a medication error at the hands of a negligent nursing home. We can gather evidence, consult medical experts, file a suit on your behalf, pursue a settlement, and manage all necessary communication. Call (800) 959-1444 today to schedule a free consultation. Since we work on a contingency fee basis, you will not owe us anything unless we can earn an award for you.