Medication errors are unfortunate and costly. In nursing home environments, these mistakes can be that much more consequential to the advanced age of patients, and the more important role the medication often plays in their lives. Avoiding these types of medication mistakes is one of the most crucial and essential tasks nursing home staff have to undertake during their day-to-day work hours.
There are safeguards in place to help prevent medication errors, but many people who either live in a nursing home or who have a loved one that does, know very little about the nature of medication errors in nursing homes. However, the information is obtainable, and this guide sets out to do just this.
What are the Standards for Medicating Elders?
Nursing home medication error rates must be kept on record according to law. To stay functional and open, nursing home medication error rates must stay below five percent. Minor errors are all but inevitable, but avoiding significant or life-threatening medication errors is one of the top responsibilities of nursing home staff. By definition, a medication error occurs when the administered medication is given differently than the doctor’s order, or the manufacturer’s instructions. Medication errors are also defined as moments when the application of the medication falls below accepted professional standards for that specific type of medication.
How is Medication Administered in Nursing Homes?
Medication is typically administered in nursing homes during what staff refers to as a “med pass.” This term describes the process of dispensing medication to the residents of a nursing home in a certain order. The administering nurse usually pushes around a cart that includes all the patient’s medication, and the equipment needed to administer the medication. All med passes are done by licensed nurses and can take upwards of five hours to complete.
What Types of Medication Errors are Common?
Knowing the types of medication errors that are common in nursing homes is essential for patients and those that are connected to the care of the patients. Without proper care, patients with disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and other mental health afflictions can be especially negatively affected. Several medication error types are especially common:
Incorrect Slicing or Splitting of Pills:
When pills that are not meant to be sliced or split are given to a patient in this manner, it can cause the medication to be either ineffective or cause the medication to decrease in its potency as well.
Failing to Roll, Shake, or Mix Medications:
Many medications require the staff to use special shaking, mixing, or rolling techniques to prepare the medication for ingestion. When this process is not performed correctly, the patient can be given too much or too little of the medication being administered. Especially when it comes to insulin, incorrect medication dosage in this arena can lead to serious complications. For more information on what to do if this has happened at a nursing home visit rosenfeldinjurylawyers.com/nursing-home-abuse-and-neglect.html
Failure to Follow Enteral Nutritional Formula Directions:
There are a reasonable number of patients in nursing homes that are given enteral nutrition (feeding tubes), as they are unable to feed themselves through other means. Very specific guidelines and practices must be followed when staff is providing this essential medication. When proper protocol is not followed, medication errors can cause the patient harm, and make them fall into a malnourished state.
Inadequate Liquids Given Alongside Medications:
Many common medications must be given with a specific amount of liquid to be safe and effective. When a resident is not given the proper amount of liquid, their lack of hydration can lead to complications that can lower the medication’s effectiveness, and which can lead to other complications as well.
Incorrect Application of Sublingual Medications:
Many elderly patients in nursing homes are resistant to taking sublingual tablets and medications. When a patient repeatedly refuses to swallow a tablet or is unable to, the medication must be switched. Otherwise, it can cause both complications, and can also make the medicine ineffective.
Improper Eye Drop Technique:
Many medications that are designed for elderly eyes must be given by administering them directly into the patient’s eye. A nursing home staff member must ensure that all droplets make contact with the eye, and stay applied for the necessary time for the medication to take effect. Failure to do so can create situations that will damage the patient’s eye (both in the short and long term).
Medication is Essential to the Well-being of Nursing Home Patients
If you or a loved one are being given insufficient medical care in a nursing home, you must find legal protection. Without doing so, other patients are more likely to be harmed as well. Thankfully, many patient advocacy organizations exist to help patients who find themselves in these types of unfortunate situations.
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