Nursing Home Medication Problems

A recurring issue with regard to Illinois nursing homes (as well as other health care facilities such as assisted living facilities) is whether medications and prescriptions are being properly administered to nursing home residents.  There are many potentially problematical issues that can arise, and the nursing home resident can experience improper treatment, leading to health problems including pain and potentially death, if prescriptions are improperly administered.

Some of the problematical issues with regard to improper drug administration include:

Drug diversion – One issue with regard to drugs and prescriptions intended for nursing home residents is whether those drugs actually are administered to the intended patients.

This prescription theft occurs when nursing home personnel steal or otherwise divert drugs.  While such theft can occur for numerous reasons, two prominent motivations for stealing drugs include reselling the drugs – which can be (highly) profitable – as well as nursing home personnel using the drugs for their own uses.  This use of drugs by nursing home personnel is especially likely if the nursing home personnel is addicted to drugs.

Overprescriptions of Drugs – Another prominent issue with regard to nursing home drug administration is that of drug overprescriptions.  This occurs when a drug (or drugs) is prescribed unnecessarily.  One of the most prominent examples of drugs that are (allegedly) overprescribed is that of antipsychotics.

A recent ProPublica article (that of July 12, 2015, titled “Popular Blood Thinner Coumadin Causing Deaths, Injuries at Nursing Homes“) discusses the problem of antipsychotic overprescriptions.  An excerpt from the article:

Nursing homes around the country are routinely cited for lapses that imperil residents, from letting those with dementia wander off to not stopping elders from choking on their food. For years, advocates, researchers and government officials have worried about the overuse of antipsychotic medications that can put elderly patients into a stupor and increase their risk of life-threatening falls. A national initiative helped reduce the use of such drugs among long-term nursing home residents by 20 percent between the end of 2011 and the end of 2014.

Improper Dosages – Improper dosages are another problem that can occur.  Dosages of administered drugs can either be too high (overdosage) or too low (underdosage.)  In many instances these improper dosages can prove harmful to the patient.

The ProPublica article mentioned above discusses problems with improper dosages of coumadin.  An excerpt from the article:

From 2011 to 2014, at least 165 nursing home residents were hospitalized or died after errors involving Coumadin or its generic version, warfarin, a ProPublica analysis of government inspection reports shows. Studies suggest there are thousands more injuries every year that are never investigated by the government.

“It’s an insidious problem,” said Rod Baird, president of Geriatric Practice Management, a firm that creates electronic health records for physicians working in long-term care facilities. Because it’s so easy to get wrong, “Coumadin is the most dangerous drug in America.”

Another excerpt from the article:

About 1 in 6 of the nation’s 1.3 million nursing home residents take an anticoagulant, according to federal data from earlier this year; the majority are believed to be on Coumadin or its generic.

Improper Administration –  In addition to improper dosages, there are other various ways in which drugs can be improperly administered.  Each prescription can have unique instructions as to how it should be properly given to the patient, in order to be safe and to insure its efficacy.

For instance, if the drug is in pill form, does it have to be crushed before being given to a patient?  Does the drug have to be diluted?  Should the drug be given with or without food?  Should it be given at a certain time of the day?  These are just a few of the issues involved in proper drug administration.

Skipped Dosages – Another problematical issue is when prescriptions are not consistently given at the proper intervals, i.e. the dosage is “skipped.”  While such errors can vary in consequence, even if a “skipped” medication causes no harm, it is nonetheless a problematical issue as it is an indication that nursing home procedures are incorrect and/or otherwise suboptimal.

Should someone you care for in a Chicago nursing home (or any other Illinois nursing home or care facility) be injured or otherwise harmed by such a drug administration problem discussed above, such negligence may be grounds for filing a lawsuit.

Each prescription administration problem should be assessed, from a legal perspective, on a case-by-case basis.  Elman Joseph Law Group’s Chicago nursing home lawyers will determine whether the nursing home or other type of health care facility is liable for injuries and harm caused by such problems.  Please call the personal injury trial lawyers at the Elman Joseph Law Group at (773) 392-8182 to discuss the situation and to get a legal overview.