Medication Errors: The Assisted Living Facility Failed to Give My Loved One the Proper Medication | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Medication management in assisted living facilities is a critical aspect of ensuring the health and well-being of residents. However, like any complex process involving multiple stakeholders and steps, medication errors can occur. These mistakes can have serious consequences for the residents’ health and safety, highlighting the need for stringent protocols and continuous staff training to mitigate the risks associated with medication errors. Errors in administering medication have the potential to cause harm and place a resident’s life at risk.

Wrong Dosage

Administering the incorrect dosage of a medication is a common mistake. This can happen due to miscalculations, miscommunication, or misinterpretation of the physician’s orders. A higher or lower dosage than prescribed can lead to ineffective treatment or potential harm to the resident.

Wrong Medication

Administering the wrong medication to a resident is a serious error that can result from similar-looking or similar-sounding medication names, illegible prescriptions, or inadequate verification of the medication before administration. It can lead to adverse effects or a lack of proper treatment for the resident’s medical condition.

Missed Doses

Failing to administer a scheduled dose of medication at the appropriate time is another common mistake. This can happen due to staff oversight, scheduling issues, or a busy work environment. Missing doses can compromise the effectiveness of the treatment and impact the resident’s health outcomes.

Inadequate Monitoring

Failure to regularly monitor a resident’s response to medication can be a critical error. Monitoring is essential to assess the medication’s effectiveness, identify side effects, and make adjustments to the treatment plan as needed. Inadequate monitoring can lead to delayed intervention or incorrect adjustments.

Incorrect Administration Technique

Improper administration techniques, such as not following specific instructions for administering a particular medication (e.g., taking with food), can reduce the medication’s efficacy or cause unnecessary side effects.

Mixing Medications Incorrectly

Some medications should not be mixed due to potential interactions. Errors can occur if staff overlook or are unaware of these interactions, resulting in adverse effects or reduced effectiveness of the medications.

Lack of Communication

Inadequate communication among staff members, healthcare providers, residents or their families can lead to misunderstandings or incomplete information about a resident’s medication regimen. This lack of communication can result in medication errors.

Incorrect Storage

Storing medications improperly, such as exposing them to incorrect temperatures or not following specific storage instructions, can affect the medication’s stability and potency, leading to potential harm to the resident.

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 of 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 Resident?

If a medication error has occurred, 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 resident’s family or loved ones of the medication mistake.
  2. Inform the care team so that they can prepare for any adverse event with the resident.
  3. 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.

Contact Our Virginia Personal Injury Law Firm for Help

If your loved one has been a victim of medication error at the facility they reside, do not delay in contacting Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp. We will schedule a free case evaluation with one of our dedicated Virginia Beach malpractice attorneys to find out what legal recourse you may have.