Picture of an elderly patient's hands holding pills and a glass of water sitting next to a nurse

Nursing home facilities are trusted by many Dallas and, more broadly, Texas families to take care of elderly loved ones. When that care is subpar or worse, residents could suffer physically, emotionally, socially, or financially.

In regard to their health, the majority of long-term care facility residents take medication to improve or maintain conditions. When medication errors are made, severe reactions could occur or conditions could worsen significantly. It’s possible a neglected resident could end up in the hospital or suffer fatal injuries from the mistake.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 16 to 27 percent of all nursing home residents are victims of medication errors. While death resulting from medication mistakes is rare, other complications are possible. If your loved one is in a nursing home, it’s important to know about the prevalence of medication errors in their facility. They’re more common than many people realize. Understanding why they happen and what the possible effects are can help prevent future mistakes being made.

The Dallas nursing home abuse lawyers of Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP have litigated many cases involving medication errors resulting from negligence. We will work diligently to get your loved one better care and make your family whole as soon as possible. Explore your options for legal recourse with Dallas nursing home medication error lawyers who leverage the experience and resources to successfully handle your claim. Reach out to schedule a free initial consultation

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Causes of Medication Errors in Long-Term Care Facilities

Some of the most common medication errors in nursing homes and long-term care facilities are caused by understaffing, misdiagnosis, confusion regarding administration, and incorrect transcriptions of dosages or prescriptions. Medication errors can be knowledge-based, rule-based, action-based, or memory-based.

  • Knowledge-based errors happen when a staff member does not have enough information on the medication they’re supposed to be giving a resident. They may be unaware of a patient’s medical history, allergies, diet, or other prescriptions. Not knowing this information could lead to a preventable reaction.
  • Rule-based errors occur when employees neglect to follow protocol, intentionally or unintentionally. This happens when a nurse or caregiver is improperly trained, fatigued, confused about a rule, or is unclear on the prescription instructions.
  • Action-based errors happen when staff have the correct information but make a mistake regardless. These are the most common types of medication errors. A nurse might write down the wrong prescription, pick up the wrong bottle off the pharmacy shelf, or misread a label.
  • Memory-based errors affect how medication is administered. If a resident receives a number of medications that are not properly recorded by staff, serious consequences could ensue. These errors may lead to an overdose or adverse reaction, and are frequently made when staff are overworked and fatigued.

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Examples of Medication Errors

The following are examples of common medication errors made by nurses, doctors, physician assistants, and caregivers in nursing homes.

  • Giving the wrong dose of medicine
  • Using an incorrect administration technique
  • Giving expired medications
  • Failing to give medications on time
  • Administering a drug with contraindications
  • Giving the wrong form medication, for example, oral instead of intravenous
  • Documenting the medication administration incorrectly
  • Mistakes with lab work
  • Giving a prescription medication to the wrong patient
  • Negligent monitoring following the administration of medication
  • Failing to properly mix or prepare a medication prior to administration
  • Failing to check that IVs are working correctly
  • Administering a new medication without consent
  • Not following feeding tube nutrition formulas
  • Cutting tablets or pills that should not be split

Nursing home staff and caretakers are vulnerable to numerous interruptions that affect concentration, situational awareness, and memory that can compromise the medication administration process. Whether attributed to communication breakdowns, understaffing, poor record-keeping, or lack of knowledge, medication errors may lead to grave health complications and constitute nursing home abuse.

If a loved one has suffered from a medication error in a nursing home facility, investigations can determine if negligence was a factor. Our Dallas personal injury lawyers can assess the situation and file a legal claim against negligent parties if warranted.

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Common Drugs that are Incorrectly Administered in Skilled Nursing Homes

The vast majority of elderly residents take at least three to four medications. Statistics indicate that mistakes are more prevalent with the following medications:

  • Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines such as Zoloft, Haldol, Ativan and Lorazepampain
  • Blood thinners like Warfarin and Apixaban
  • Antipsychotic medications
  • Opioids pain relievers, including hydrocodone and OxyContin
  • Heparin
  • Anti-seizure drugs like diazepam and clonazepam
  • Insulin
  • Fentanyl
  • Diuretics and laxatives

A medication error may cause minor effects in young, healthy patients, but this is rarely the case in vulnerable seniors. Even something as simple as several missed doses of laxatives can prove disastrous for some patients. Nursing home residents could suffer impaction, intestinal rupture, or infection.

Consequences of Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

Medication mistakes in nursing home facilities can result in life-threatening allergic reactions, new complications, and worsening of the patient’s health.  

Adverse effects of missed medications, overdoses, and wrong medications often include:

  • Gastrointestinal conditions
  • Hypotension
  • Respiratory distress
  • Stroke
  • Brain damage
  • Hemorrhaging
  • Coma
  • Cognitive impairment

Mistakes in medication are largely preventable, studies show. Lawsuits against nursing homes often cite a systemic lack of safety awareness and knowledge, inadequate verbal communication, and understaffing problems. These same issues factor into all kinds of nursing home abuse, including misuse of chemical restraints, bedsores from neglect, and improper wound care.

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How to Prevent Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

In order to avoid medication errors, The Institute of Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) advises that nursing home facilities and staff be aware of the following elements:

  • Patient Information. It’s important to verify a patient is receiving medication prescribed to them. To do this, staff should verify the patient’s name, age, birth date, weight, allergies, diagnosis, current lab results, and vital signs.
  • Drug Information. All medical staff dispensing medicine should have access to accurate and current drug information. This could come from protocols, text references, order sets, computerized drug information systems, patient profiles, or medication administration records.
  • Adequate Communication. Communication barriers between physicians, pharmacists, and nurses should be eliminated.
  • Drug Packaging, Labeling, and Nomenclature. Every nursing home should ensure that all medications they receive are in clearly labeled unit-dose packages.
  • Medication Storage, Stock Standardization, and Distribution. Medication errors can be prevented by decreasing availability to floor-stock medications, distributing new medications efficiently, and restricting access to high-alert drugs.
  • Drug Device Acquisition, Use, and Monitoring. The devices used to administer medications should be checked for flaws regularly, to avoid over or under-medicating.
  • Environmental Factors. When a nursing home employee is administering medication, there should be ample lighting, clear space, and minimal distractions.
  • Staff Education and Competency. When new medications enter a nursing home, all staff should be provided with information on them. Medication-related policies, procedures, and protocols should be regularly reviewed and updated.
  • Patient Education. Caregivers in long-term care facilities should teach patients the names of their medications, what they look like, how they’re supposed to take it, what the dosage is, the potential reactions, and what it’s being used to treat.

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Nursing Home Negligence Compensation

Our Dallas nursing home abuse attorneys have decades of experience helping victims and their families secure the justice and compensation they deserve. Potential damages in a lawsuit stemming from medication errors can include those for:

  • Past and ongoing medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Burial and funeral costs in the event of a wrongful death

Compassionate Advocacy in Dallas

If your loved one has suffered injuries because of a medication error or any other form of abuse or neglect in a nursing home or long-term care facility, legal representation from Crowe Arnold & Majors, LLP can help you hold the nursing home or its employees responsible for their actions. While we’re located in Dallas, we help victims of personal injuries all over Texas. To learn more about how you can recover compensation on behalf of your loved one for their injuries and suffering, call and schedule a free consultation.