Medication Errors / Overmedication in Nursing Homes

Most nursing home residents take medication to improve or maintain their health conditions. For example, patients with heart disease and high blood pressure must take a variety of medicines to stay alive. If they miss any medicines, they could die from a heart attack or a stroke. Nursing home is responsible for making sure all residents take their medications correctly. Also, they are responsible for keeping a list of residents’ allergies to medications.

When medication errors are made, severe reactions could occur or conditions could worsen significantly that would lead to hospitalization or even death. One woman decided to get the agency in her state to investigate the sudden passing of grandmother and the investigation discovered she was given the wrong medication.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 16 to 27 percent of all nursing home residents are victims of medication errors.

Some of the most common medication mistakes are caused by understaffing, carelessness on the part of the staff, lack of supervision of the nurses administering nurses, misdiagnosis, confusion regarding administration, and incorrect transcriptions of dosages or prescriptions. Also, there are communication problems among staff at times since there are so many residents. For example, one nurse might assume that another nurse has administered the medication to one particular resident and due to lack of communication that resident misses her/his medication.

Studies have shown that the two most common medication mistakes are:

1.) Delayed or missed treatment of medication; and

2.) The administration of the wrong dose or the wrong medication

Studies also show that nursing home medication error occurrences are widely underreported. It is estimated that only 1.5% of all medication errors are actually reported. Since 2000, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received more than 95,000 reports of medication errors. These reports are voluntary, so the number of actual medication errors is believed to be higher.

Nursing home and medication error risks can be considerable because many patients are on a number of prescriptions and have already compromised physical health conditions.

The following are the most common types of medication errors:

• Medications administered to the wrong patient;
• Medications given in an incorrect dose (overdose or inadequate dose);
• Failing to monitor the effects of a medication. Many medications like blood thinners (Coumadin, Heparin, Lovenox) require regular laboratory tests;
• Administering a medication to a patient who is allergic to the medicine.

It is very common for nursing homes to overmedicate nursing home residents with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other types of cognitive impairments with tranquilizers to control their behavior. Overmedication is dangerous because it can increase the chances of residents falling.

Intentional overmedication is most often done with the purpose of making a patient easier to control, often referred to as chemical restraint. Antipsychotics and sedatives are medications that may calm a patient down, or make a patient more likely to comply with directions given by caregivers, family members, or nursing home staff. In some cases, institutions will even give patients medications without a prescription.

Also, sometimes nursing homes give pain medicine such as Tramadol for pain unnecessarily to nursing home residents who have dementia and Tramadol is not a good medication for patients with dementia because it can cause them to become more confused and not alert.

Source: Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

Source: Nursing Homes Are Overmedicating Their Residents Who Suffer From Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease


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