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The Assisted Living Facility Failed to Give My Loved One the Proper Medication, Can I Sue?

Mistakes with medication of residents in an assisted living facility do happen, and you have the right to file a lawsuit and hold them liable for wrong dosage, wrong medication, or failure to administer medication.

While medication mistakes are mostly not life-threatening, mostly the cases are of administering prescribed medications improperly or administering the wrong medication. Errors in administering medication have the potential to cause harm and place a resident’s life at risk.

If you hire an experienced lawyer who can prove that your family member suffered injury or harm due to the assisted living facility’s negligence, you can claim and secure financial compensation.

Some Statistics of Medication Errors in Assisted Living Facilities

According to some estimates, around 1.5 million people suffer harm from drug medication mistakes in the United States each year. Approximately half of these incidents take place in nursing facilities with elderly or infirm residents.

Almost a quarter of a million fatalities occur from medical errors every year. While not all these fatalities are due to negligence, it does account for a large share of the total figure.  

Acceptable and Serious Medication Errors in Assisted Living Facilities

The National Coordinating Council for Medication Error Reporting and Prevention defines a medication mistake as a preventable event involving improper medication that might harm the patient.

Federal regulations take the view that facilities can make minor mistakes while administering medication to residents, and not all medication mistakes are the same. Assisted facilities will draw a citation during a federal inspection in case of medication complication rate more than five percent.   

Some of the minor medication mistakes that might be acceptable as they fall within the five percent limit are:

  • Drug interactions
  • Delay of a few minutes in administering a medication
  • Erroneously not giving the last few medication drops
  • Prescription of drugs contraindicated to the resident’s medical conditions
  • Incorrectly mixing the medication

However, even one serious mistake in administering medication is enough to attract a health citation. Federal regulations also have provisions for levying heavy fines on assisted living facilities if the medication error results in actual harm to a resident.

Some examples of serious medication mistakes that could lead to a federal health citation are:

  • Administering the wrong medication
  • Leaving the drugs in front of residents and forgetting to verify if they took the medication
  • Injecting the prescribed medication into the wrong area
  • Administering expired medication
  • Giving the wrong dosage of the prescribed medication
  • Wrongly prescribing a medication

Some of these severe medication errors may cause confusion, tremors, comas, and other conditions in a patient. Sometimes, these errors can prove to be fatal.

Reasons Behind Frequent Medication Errors

Staff Shortage

It is not surprising to find many assisted living facilities owned by large chains that keep staff at a bare minimum, with an eye on maximizing profits. The staffing rosters at some facilities are at such low levels that it is not possible for them to provide the required level of care to the residents.

Dispensing medications is time-intensive, with two to four hours required for every medication run, depending upon the nature of medications and the number of residents in the facility. Medication errors are common in this scenario.  

Lack of Training

Another major contributing factor to medication mistakes is the lack of proper staff training. Laws in most states have different requirements for staff allowed to administer medication to residents.

While in some states it is essential for the nurses to administer the medication, other states permit non-nursing staff, although under the supervision of a nurse. Despite this, mistakes do occur. Additionally, some facilities might restrict training levels, motivated by profitability.

Consequences of Medication Errors

A wrong drug has the potential to be life-threatening or may cause adverse reactions, including rashes, confusion, tremors, and itching. Severe cases might cause irreversible damage or even wrongful death.

Some of the causes for failure to properly administer the medication are:

•        Lack of training

•        Lack of knowledge with the drug

•        Lack of communication between caregivers and doctors

•        Lack of understanding of the medical history

•        Lack of implementation of procedures and protocol

What Should a Facility Do If a Medication Error Has Caused Harm to a Patient?

There are numerous incidents of medication errors by the nursing and other staff, resulting in harm or injuries to the residents in an assisted living facility. The reasons, as we discussed before, could range from a failure to administer the right dosage or drug, to ignoring a doctor’s prescription.   

The caregiver in the facility needs to follow certain steps if a medical error occurs because of negligence or oversight. These steps include:

  1. Apprise the patient’s family or loved ones of the medication mistake
  1. Inform the care team so that they can prepare for any adverse event with the patient
  1. Gather and maintain records of the medication error and report to the assisted living facility's safety committee, to avert any future problems with the resident's care

Take the Help of an Experienced Attorney

An assisted living facility, at fault of making a medication error, might deny or oppose the claim that caused harm to your loved one. We, at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn fully understand the horror of finding out that the people in charge for your loved ones’ care, betrayed your trust, and your family member suffers because of their negligence.

Call us today at 800-752-0042 to meet with one of our competent and able Virginia attorneys and find out the legal recourse for your situation. You can also fill our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

References:

https://www.hsinjurylaw.com/library/the-silence-of-nursing-home-neglect-injuries.cfm

https://www.hsinjurylaw.com/video/first-steps-in-nursing-home-negligence-claim.cfm?q=nursing%20home%20abuse

https://www.hsinjurylaw.com/library/nursing-home-misdiagnosis-virginia-nursing-home-abuse-attorney.cfm

Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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