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Medication errors in nursing homes

One of the reasons prompting New York City residents to entrust the care of their loved ones to nursing homes may be so that those family members or friends will have the clinical support needed to adhere to their medication schedules. The belief may be that if their elderly or infirm loved ones are in a long-term care facility, they will be receiving the drugs they need regularly from a trained professional. However, that may not always happen.

Errors with, and omissions of, medications rank among the most common types of nursing home negligence. Sadly, research suggests that such mistakes are avoidable. Study data shared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows that of the nursing home adverse drug events reviewed, 40 percent were preventable. Oftentimes, they may simply be due to judgment errors or the lack of pharmaceutical experience among care providers, such as:

  • Improperly preparing medications: In many instances, medications need to be mixed, divided or rolled before being given. Failure to prepare drugs properly could result in a resident receiving an overly concentrated or diluted dose.
  • Failure to follow administration guidelines: Adverse reactions may occur if a resident does not also take the right amount of fluids or nutritional elements prior to being medicated.
  • Incorrect medications: Giving a patient the wrong type of medication can have disastrous consequences.

The nursing home guidelines set by the Department of Health of the state of New York say that only registered nurses, licensed practical nurses or practitioners licensed under Title VIII of the state’s Education Law are authorized to administer medications. Unauthorized providers may be ill-equipped to spot a potential medication error or handle a resident’s adverse reaction to a drug.

 

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