Nursing Home Medication Errors



Older adults often take numerous medications. Nursing homes and personal care facilities often dispense these medications to patients. A common problem in nursing homes is errors related to medication administration.


Common Types of Medication Errors in Nursing Homes


Most nursing homes are understaffed. The rigors of the COVID epidemic caused a tremendous amount of staffing turnover as well. As a result, nursing staff members now tend to have less experience or are getting acclimated to new systems. This is an ideal set of circumstances where medication errors can flourish.


In most nursing facilities, the medication is given when the nursing staff member completes what is known as a “med pass”. This is the term used when describing the process of dispensing medication to nursing facility residents according to a physician’s order. Med passes are usually carried out by licensed nurses or unlicensed staff members as long as a nurse is supervising. Given staffing shortages, staff members carrying out the med pass may feel rushed.


A recent study of medication errors that can happen in a nursing home highlighted the following common errors:

  • Failing to give a prescribed medication

  • Giving expired medications

  • Giving too little or skipping a dose of medication

  • Giving too much medication

  • Giving the medication at the wrong time or at the wrong rate

  • Giving the wrong form of the medication, the wrong strength, or the wrong medication altogether

  • Failing to monitor the resident after giving the medication

  • Giving medication to the wrong resident

  • Using an incorrect technique to administer the medication

Signs of Nursing Home Medication Errors


If your family member’s day-to-day conduct and behavior has changed in any significant way, a review of your loved one’s medication records is advisable. A resident’s change in conduct or behavior due to medication errors can vary widely. With certain medication errors nursing home residents may be more physically or verbally aggressive to the staff and other residents. However, other medication errors might cause a resident to be withdrawn, quiet or depressed.


Regardless of the behavior you observe, if you witness your loved one acting suddenly and inexplicably different, you should immediately bring it to the attention of the nursing home staff. Your family member’s medical chart can then be reviewed for any possible medication errors.


Should You be Informed of a Medication Error?


Yes. Pennsylvania law requires a nursing home to immediately report the error to the resident, the resident’s designated family member and the physician prescribing the medications. Documentation of the medication error must be retained in the resident’s records and there must be documentation of follow-up action that was taken to prevent future medication errors. In order to keep tabs on the nursing home, you should periodically ask the resident’s physician if any medication errors have been reported. If errors were reported, you should ask the physician more about the situation before speaking with the nursing home.


Medication Malpractice


There are various malpractice concerns that may be experienced by nursing facility residents that are grounds for a lawsuit on the basis of a medication error.


These include:

  • Diversions of medication: When the staff member diverts a medication, it is usually a matter of stealing the medication for their own personal use. The medication may also be taken to sell to other people.

  • Ignoring an order: Some employees will ignore the administration instructions and change the order, add medications that are not ordered, or discontinue a medication.

  • Medication borrowing: When the staff is busy during the med pass, there may be medications missing. Instead of getting the right medication, the person doing the med pass may borrow a medication from one resident to another. If this is not documented, mistakes can be made.

  • Poor medication management: This happens when the nursing facility fails to have the right medication on hand so that the nursing home resident will not have the medication available.

Lawsuits Regarding Medication Errors in the Nursing Home


The improper administration of medication can cause a resident to become seriously ill or even die. Filing a nursing home abuse lawsuit can help you take justice against those responsible for harming your loved one and help ensure others won’t have to suffer.


A successful nursing home abuse lawsuit provides financial compensation for your loved one’s injuries that can help pay for treatments and other costs.


Nobody should have to suffer from poor treatment during their most vulnerable years. If your loved one was the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, we can help.


Contact us to get a free case review today to see if you or your loved one may be entitled to compensation.



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