Medication Errors in Colorado Nursing Homes

Most nursing home patients take highly complex drug regimens often consisting of different medications every month — those medications must be dispensed properly. The consequences of medication errors in nursing homes can be dire. They can lead to serious illness, complications, and even death.

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Nursing Home Justice Gains Respect for Victims of Medication Errors

Medication errors in assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and other elder care or disabled care facilities are unnecessary. These cases can be complex — and you need an experienced attorney who understands the Colorado laws that apply to your case.

Nursing Home Justice is not afraid to stand up to large corporations and their insurance companies to help you recover what you deserve.

Mac Hester, the founding attorney of Nursing Home Justice, has over 35 years of legal experience. He is passionate about helping victims of abuse and neglect. Each client is treated with respect as we guide you to recovery.

Contact attorney Mac Hester with Nursing Home Justice Today — (303) 775-8128

What Are Medication Errors?

Medication errors involve mistakes with drugs that can worsen a patient’s condition or kill them — these mistakes can be made with both prescription and over-the-counter medication.

Nursing home medication errors often occur due to nursing home staff negligence; however, other parties might be at fault. Negligence is a legal theory indicating that a party owed a duty and breached it. The duty in medication error cases is to dispense medications appropriately, per medical professional orders.

If nurses or other caregivers fail to do that, they have breached their duty and may be found negligent. If that negligence causes a victim injury, illness, or death, the nursing home and other at-fault parties can be held liable for damages.

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Common Types of Medication Errors

There are various types of medication errors common in nursing homes.

Cutting Pills That Should Not Be Split

Many medication tablets and capsules have instructions that indicate they should not be split when giving them to an individual. Cutting certain types of medication, such as extended-release drugs, can seriously impact how they interact with the body.

This may result in overdose or underdose. Nursing home staff may split pills to get a prescription to last longer or if they failed to give it at the appropriate time of day and think the patient only needs a partial dosage. These actions are medical mistakes that can result in serious injury to a resident.

Inadequate Liquids Given with Medications

Some medications require a certain amount of liquid, often water, to be consumed at the same time as the drug. It is common to need a full glass of water with medication. If a resident is not properly hydrated along with medication, they may not properly digest it.

Providing Foods or Antacids with Medications

Certain medications must be taken with or without food. For example, some thyroid medications cannot be taken shortly before or after food.

Others must be given with antacids to digest the prescription correctly. Nursing home staff must thoroughly review medical orders to ensure they are giving prescriptions as they are intended.

Failure to Shake, Mix, or Roll Medication

There are some liquid medications or those that must be mixed with water that must be shaken, mixed, or rolled in the hands before administering to a patient.

If these prescriptions are not correctly handled, victims are at risk of overdose or underdose. Many insulins and other suspension medications require this type of handling.

Failure to Follow Enteral Nutritional Formulas

When a patient is being fed with a feeding tube (enteral nutrition), there are specific protocols for how to give medications. If medical orders are not followed, a patient may be harmed.

Improper Administration of Medication

Nursing home staff may make a medication administration error by improperly giving patients drugs. For example, residents may be told to swallow a sublingual tablet. This can impact how the medication is absorbed and the timing it reacts within the body, potentially causing injury.

Forms of Medical Malpractice Involved in Medication Errors

Medical malpractice is a type of personal injury claim that focuses on the negligence of a medical provider, such as a nursing home or staff members. The medical malpractice of those parties can form the grounds for a medication error lawsuit.

Some types of medical malpractice involving medication errors include:

  • Medication Diversion – If a staff member “diverts” or steals a medication for personal use or to sell to other people, they may be held accountable for their actions.
  • Failure to Adhere to a Medical Order – Doctors and other licensed healthcare providers issue medical orders with prescriptions that must be followed. If those administration instructions are ignored or changed, staff may be at-fault for injury, illness, or death of a resident.
  • Medication Borrowing – When two residents are on the same medication, staff may be tempted to borrow from one to give to another. This is often not documented, and mistakes occur.
  • Poor Medication Management – Nursing home facilities must adhere to strict medication management protocols or risk injuring residents. Failure to have the proper medication on hand or administer it appropriately can be dangerous to patients.

How Are Nurses Required to Administer Meds?

When administering medications, nurses must follow orders from a prescribing medical professional, such as a doctor or advanced nurse practitioner.

They Must Follow Specific Instructions

While many medications should be given to residents in the morning or evening, other prescriptions have specific indications, like being given after any meal or snack — which is typical for insulin.

If nurses fail to follow medical orders, they can be held accountable for injuries, illnesses, and deaths they cause.

They Must Keep Record of Medications

In addition to properly administering medications, nurses must keep a thorough record of what medications they give to each resident and when it was given.

Failure to keep this information can be evidence of negligence. Medication management and record-keeping is an essential part of properly operating a nursing home facility.

What is a Med Pass?

A medication pass, often called “med pass,” is the process for how medication is administered to residents in a nursing home facility. Typically, licensed nurses are tasked with conducting med pass procedures.

However, unlicensed nursing staff may take on the duties of dispensing medications under the supervision of a licensed nurse or other licensed medical professional.

In some nursing home facilities, nurses who earn a med pass have additional certification or training than other staff members. They generally have an understanding of common medications and how to read medical orders.

Nurses with med pass certifications are essential in maintaining the health and safety of residents.

Common Causes of Medication Errors

Many factors lead to medication mistakes, most of which come down to human error. Nursing homes are notoriously understaffed, and nurses are often overworked. This makes errors of all kinds more likely.

Without proper medication protocols, errors are more common as well. For example, when staff members are distracted or rushed during med pass, they may make a mistake.

Some of the most common causes of medication errors include:

  • Inaccurate documentation of medication administration
  • Failing to monitor the patient after administering medication
  • Failing to follow med pass protocol
  • Administering expired medications
  • Skipping doses of medications
  • Giving too little or too much medication
  • Administering medication at the wrong time
  • Giving a resident the wrong form or strength of medication
  • Administering an incorrect medication to a patient
  • Using incorrect medication administration techniques

Nursing Home Medication Regulations

There are both state and federal regulations that apply to nursing homes and long-term care prescription providers.

Federal Mandates

Federal laws have been issued to establish standards of practice that are integral in medication management for residents in nursing homes.

Federal standards of practice are designed to:

  • Reduce medication errors
  • Decrease adverse drug events
  • Ensure proper medication selection
  • Monitor drug interactions
  • Improve medication administration and documentation

State Medication Regulations

State laws typically deal with the licensing of nursing home facilities and medication professionals who work at those facilities. Licensed nurses and even unlicensed staff hired by nursing homes must have specific training and certifications that involve a minimum amount of knowledge about medications and the administration of drugs.

Failure to hire qualified individuals and adequately train staff can result in severe fines and liability for nursing homes. Evidence of failure to meet regulations may be considered negligence, which can lead to liability for damages caused by medication errors.

What Can You Recover for Medication Errors?

Residents of nursing homes have a right to be cared for in a safe and healthy environment, including proper administration of medications. Nursing Home Justice can help you pursue financial recovery.

Damages for Medication Error Claims

Nursing homes and staff members who are negligent can cause significant injuries, illnesses, and even death for residents. Nursing Home Justice will consider the total impact of actions taken by the nursing home and staff. You can get compensation for the following damages:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Permanent impairment
  • Mental and emotional distress
  • Current and future medical bills
  • Long-term care expenses
  • Costs of medical equipment

Damages for Wrongful Death

When a medication mistake results in the wrongful death of your loved one, a decedent’s surviving spouse or heirs can pursue a wrongful death claim to obtain the following compensation:

  • Loss of financial support that the decedent would have provided to the surviving spouse, heirs or designated beneficiary (e.g., decedent was a rehab patient who was going to return to work)
  • Funeral expenses
  • Non-economic damages for grief, sorrow, and loss of companionship

The personal representative of the decedent’s estate may also be able to recover medical expenses caused by the medical malpractice.

Punitive Damages

In some cases, you may be able to get punitive damages. These damages are not meant to compensate you for losses but rather punish the wrongful or reckless behavior of a party.

How Nursing Home Justice Can Help

Nursing Home Justice treats every case as a unique situation and gives every client the attention they deserve. We will treat you differently by:

  • Listening To Your Story – Everyone has a story to tell. Our compassionate attorney will listen to you and gain an understanding of your goals. Then, we will develop a plan together.
  • Thoroughly Investigating Your Case – Nursing home medication error cases can be challenging to prove. We will need to obtain all records from the facility, which can be hard to do. When you work with us, we will leave no stone unturned.
  • Helping You Get the Compensation You Deserve – Nursing Home Justice will determine the value of your case and help you get the monetary damages you deserve.