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What kind of medication errors occur in nursing homes?

Many people who are in nursing homes are dependent on one or more medications for their health, or at the least, to help improve their quality of life. However, medication errors can and do occur in these facilities. State inspectors look at the number and severity of the errors as they make inspections, rank nursing homes and cite the facilities for errors.

There are many different types of errors that can be made with the medications that need to be dispensed to patients. These include:

-- Improper storage and tracking of the medications

-- Not administering the medications according to doctors' orders or as specified by the manufacturer

-- Administering the wrong dosage and/or at the wrong time

-- Not administering the medication properly (such as with or without food, without shaking it first or crushing medications that aren't supposed to be crushed, for example)

Medications include more than just pills. Many nursing home residents require eye drops, inhaled medications and/or injections. The proper administration of these medications can be crucial to a patient's health and well-being.

When nursing home staff fails to properly dispense medications, the facility, management and staff there may be guilty of medical malpractice if they cause harm to a patient.

We all want to believe that when a loved one has to be placed in a nursing home, he or she will get the best possible care. One way to find out how nursing homes in the area compare before determining which is best for a family member is to go to the Medicare.gov website. Their Nursing Home Compare page provides ratings for facilities by zip code based on a number of factors.

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, it's important for you to know what medications that person is on and to talk with the staff members who are monitoring and administering the medications. It's also important for someone in the family to monitor the well-being of that person to spot signs of distress or worsening of health.

If you believe that a loved one has been harmed by improper administration of medications or in any other way, it's essential to take action immediately to help ensure his or her safety. It's then advisable to find out what your legal options are.

Source: Nursing Home Families, "Medication Errors in the Nursing Home," accessed Dec. 16, 2015

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