Between 16 and 27% of all nursing home residents are victims of medication errors, according to a study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. A medication error usually indicates negligence on the part of nursing home staff, pointing to the sad reality that many of these mistakes are preventable. People trust nursing homes to take care of their loved ones when they are most vulnerable. When those facilities in breach that trust and cause injury to their residents, they can be held liable in Chicago court.
The attorneys of Hale & Monico represent victims of nursing home neglect and their families in seeking the justice they deserve. Let us review your case and advise as to your legal options.
Different Types Of Nursing Home Medication Errors in Chicago
Medications are life-saving for many patients and have the capacity to ease pain and symptoms for others. But they can be deadly or cause serious and permanent injuries when they are improperly administered. Some of the more common types of nursing home prescription drug errors include:
- Giving the drug to the wrong patient
- Giving a patient an incorrect drug, or failing to give one the patient needs
- Administering an improper dosage (too strong or too weak)
- Administering the drug at the incorrect time (too frequently or too infrequently)
- Giving the correct drug but via an incorrect method (e.g. oral versus intravenous)
Sometimes a combination of errors is to blame, which can make the resulting injury worse. In any event, holding a nursing home responsible starts with understanding the type of medication error. The next step is knowing how the mistake occurred.
What Causes A Nursing Home Medication Error in Chicago?
Increasingly, residents of nursing homes are prescribed medications to help them with various ailments. Many of these same individuals also take over the counter medicines. As the number of drugs in nursing homes increases, so too does the likelihood of a serious or even fatal error.
Nursing home staff members are responsible for the health and well-being of their patients, and are therefore entrusted to administer the proper medication. But mistakes like those mentioned above can and do take place. An attorney can conduct a thorough investigation to understand why the error took place. Possible reasons include:
- Improper preparation of the medication. For example, a pill may need to be cut in half rather than administered whole.
- Disregarding the physician’s or pharmacist’s instructions. These instructions should be clear and need to be followed exactly to ensure safety.
- Not providing food with the medication. Some drugs are required to be taken with a meal.
- Expired medication. This is a major error and strongly indicates that the nursing home staff acted negligently.
- Mixing up patient records. Mistaking one patient for another accounts for a significant portion of medication errors.
- Mislabeling. Similarly, if the nursing home does not properly label the medication and who it belongs to, a mistake can be made.
- Failure to monitor residents. If a patient is on a new drug or new dosage, he or she may need to be initially monitored to ensure there are no major side effects.
- Not knowing the patient’s allergies or other information. A preventable or correctable reaction to the drug could take place if the staff are not aware of important patient information.
- Improper training. Staff should be trained how to safely administer, track, and store medications to prevent mistakes.
- Fatigue and short staffing. Overworked staff, or not having enough staff on hand, can cause confusion, forgetfulness, and other preventable mistakes.
Not paying attention. Sometimes the error comes down to a distracted staff member who should have been paying better attention when the drug was given to the patient.
Injuries Caused By Medication Errors
It’s easy to understand the serious consequences that can result from a medication error. If the drug was designed to treat or prevent a disease or other condition, the patient’s health could rapidly decline. Some prescription medications are life-saving so failing to properly administer them could kill a patient. In other cases, the patient will suffer disability, severe allergic reactions, and other problems.
The patient may need immediate hospitalization to prevent life-threatening injuries. Often, a patient injured because of a medication mistake will need a potentially risky medical procedure to attempt to correct the error.
All of these can result in:
- Secondary injuries, for example due to cognitive impairment
- Dangerous behavioral changes
- Significant medical bills and out-of-pocket expenses
- The possible for need for additional or stronger medications
- Pain and suffering and emotional distress
- In some cases, death
How To Hold The Nursing Home Liable For A Medication Error in Chicago
Nursing home staff are responsible for taking reasonable steps to prevent medication errors. This could mean a number of different measures depending on the circumstances, including:
- Regular communication with the patient’s physician or pharmacist
- A monitoring plan to observe the patient after administering a drug
- Incident reporting within the nursing home to identify and correct routine mistakes
- Maintaining accurate patient files to prevent mix-ups
- Safe and secure storage of medications to avoid tampering, theft, and other issues
- Detailed record-keeping to make sure each patient receives the correct drug
- Increasing the number of staff so mistakes are not made
The attorney’s job is to investigate the facts surrounding the medication injury, including why it happened, who was responsible, and how it might have been prevented. There’s a good chance the nursing home will attempt to blame another party, such as a pharmacist, for the mistake. Your attorney will take steps to obtain pertinent information and documents from relevant parties.
Attorneys or insurers for the nursing home may wish to settle the matter to avoid a potentially damaging and embarrassing trial. Your lawyer will negotiate on your and your family’s behalf. However, if a suitable settlement cannot be reached, your attorney will take your case to court.
Contact Our Chicago Nursing Home Medication Error Attorney
Deadlines may apply in your case, so it’s a good idea to take action once you learn of a medication error. Reach out to the skilled nursing home injury lawyers of Hale & Monico to get started on your case today.