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How Medication errors can hurt – or even kill – Virginia nursing home residents

Of all the things that could possibly go wrong when you make the difficult decision to put your loved one in a nursing home, did you consider medication errors?  This issue is becoming more and more of a problem in Virginia nursing homes, and in facilities across the country.

Why are medication errors happening in Virginia nursing homes?  When it comes to prescription drugs, the patient is the last in a series of “checkpoints” in avoiding a medication mistake.  However, nursing home residents are often not in a position to realize they are being given the wrong medication, the wrong dose of a medication, a medication they don’t need, or they’re not being given a medication they should be getting.

Here are the “checkpoints” that should catch a potential medication error:

  • The doctor writing the prescription: the doctor should ensure that the medication is correct for the patient’s condition, that it is the right dose for the patient, and that it will not interfere with any other drugs the patient is taking.
  • The pharmacist filling the prescription: the pharmacist should fill the prescription correctly (the right dose of the right drug) and use their knowledge to ensure the drug will not interact with any of the patient’s other medications.
  • The nurse / staff member administering the drug to the patient: the nurse should ensure the drug is the correct one for the patient, it is the right dose, it is being given at the right time, and that the doctor’s instructions for administering the drug are followed.  The nurse must also make sure that the drug is actually given to the patient.  Residents can be harmed if they are supposed to receive a prescription that they do not actually get.
  • The patient receiving the drug: normally, the patient can read the prescription bottle and make sure the drug is correct.  Some patients even research new medications online, and make sure the pills they get are right and won’t interfere with their other medications.  Unfortunately, this step usually does not happen with nursing home residents as they may not be able for mental or emotional reasons to check their own medication.  This means that nursing home residents fully depend on their doctor, pharmacist, and nurse to keep them safe from a medication error.

If any of these points fail, the burden is on the other checkpoints to catch the error.  However, more often than not busy, overworked medical staff fail to catch even obvious medication errors.  When this happens, the results can be deadly.  Residents can suffer serious side effects from receiving the wrong medication or the wrong dose, or their condition may worsen.  Residents can even die if they are medicated incorrectly.

If your loved one has suffered from a medication mistake, you should get help immediately so that evidence can be gathered right away.  Talk to the nursing home and consult a skilled nursing home neglect attorney like one at Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas.

Andrew Thomas
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Andrew Thomas is an experienced civil litigation attorney in Virginia and is AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell.