Medication Errors and Nursing Homes:  How to Protect Your Loved OnesDue to advances in health and medicine, many people are living well into their senior years.   For some, reaching older age will come with more medical issues than they can manage independently.  Nursing homes are frequently used to meet the needs of this population.  These facilities are responsible for watching over their residents and ensuring they receive all necessary medical care including their medications.  A frightening reality is that medication errors can be quite common in these settings and the consequences can be severe.  Here are some ways you can protect your loved one from medication errors in nursing homes:

Know the Causes of Medication Errors

There are many factors which may contribute to a medication error.  For instance, there could be poor communication between the prescribing physician and dispensing staff or confusion about administering the mediation.  Another contributing factor could be understaffing of a facility which causes the person giving the medicine to carry too many responsibilities.  A facility may also be staffed with individuals who are prone to neglect the clients. By investigating potential facilities and their record regarding these types of errors and staffing issues, it may be possible to foresee medication error difficulties.  If you learn that a facility has a poor record, you can ask what has been done to rectify these problems.  If you are unsatisfied with the facility’s efforts, you may want to take steps to locate another care environment.

Go to the Facility and Meet the Care Team

One of the most important things you can do to protect your loved one from these and other errors in their care is to go to the environment, observe the conditions and interact with the care providers.  If possible, have your loved one sign a consent form so that you can talk to their physician, nurses, and other caregivers about their medication regimen.  By taking these steps you will not only become better versed in your loved one’s care, but you will also be signaling to the care providers that you are someone who is aware of and concerned about their treatment.

Know the Protocol

A licensed nurse ordinarily performs medication administration.  In order to give medications, the nurse must follow established protocol.  Ask questions about the medication administration procedures and the safeguards in place to protect against errors.  If there are checklists or written procedures, ask to see them and inquire how they document when they administer medication.  The more you know about the protections a facility has in place, the better able you will be to determine if your loved one will be under safe care.

Medication error is a serious issue which can have dire consequences for nursing home residents.  This population tends to have multiple medical issues and be vulnerable to neglect.  By being a diligent advocate for your loved one’s care, you can help prevent errors which could cause them harm.

We understand the issues faced by families with a loved one in a nursing home environment and have experience helping people advocate for their care.  We are here to help.   Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

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