The Legal Examiner reported on the astounding number of medication errors occurring in nursing homes. Researchers from the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association observed nursing home staff administering medication to 127 residents and found 428 errors, totaling an alarming 21.2 percent of all medication administrations. Another study reaffirmed these startling findings, showing that the repeated errors in nursing homes were a “common occurrence”and, obviously, were more likely to cause harm to residents than non-repeated errors.
Medication errors including giving the wrong dose of medication, giving it at the improper time, or incorrectly following doctor’s orders while administering the medication. While the amount of errors in long-term care nursing homes are alarmingly high, the American Journal of Geriatric Pharmacology found that rates are even higher in assisted-living facilities. This can be attributed to the fact that improperly trained, non-nursing staff is given the responsibility of administering medications. In another study the Journal of General Internal Medicine found that these errors “were the rule rather then the exception” and that many errors involved risky drugs such as hypoglycemic agents and anticoagulants.
Paul Woodley of Saratoga Springs, NY experienced the consequences of medication errors when his wife, who was a resident of Maplewood Manor Nursing Home, was mistakenly administered a dose of insulin intended for her roommate. As a result she suffered from dehydration, pneumonia, and an urinary tract infection until she died sixteen days later.
The American Association of Retired Persons reports that on average Americans age 75 and older typically take over 11 medications each day. With this many medications it is very important that nursing home staff are especially vigilant and correctly trained. Sadly, the current number of medication administration errors is very preventable and likely attributed to the under-staffing and lack of training provided to staff.