Medication Errors
Prevent Nursing Home Medication Errors

Nursing Home Medication Errors Are Preventable

If you have a family member in a nursing home and assuming you have permission it makes sense to know the medications being given by the nursing home to the resident to prevent nursing home medication errors. There are many reasons to track the medications a resident in a nursing home is taking including the ability to monitor for adverse reactions or changes in condition that may be related to the medication or a combination of medication. Family members should also know what medication a resident is being given in the nursing home to ensure that there is not over medication – or medication mismanagement (such as providing a pain medication which is prn (as needed), even when a resident is not experiencing symptoms of pain).

The result could mask symptoms related to other conditions and most often can create other serious risks such as a risk of falling, choking, etc. Many times the medication is considered psychotropic and if over prescribed has a functional result of putting residents in an altered state of mind, usually making them less active, creating additional risks including pressure sores.

There are other reasons to know the medications being prescribed such as how they effect a resident’s appetite and thirst level (the staff may need to ensure adequate nourishment and hydration). A resident and their family should also be familiar with the medication itself, how it looks, the amount prescribed, the times taken, etc.., this helps reduce the chance of being given the wrong medication – and reducing the possibility that narcotic medications which are have been know to be taken by nursing home staff.

How to Reduce Risk of Nursing Home Medication Errors

Make sure you are aware of what antipsychotic medications your loved you is taking.

According to an article from May 26, 2008, published in the New York Times: Elderly people with dementia who are given antipsychotics, even for a very short period of time, are more likely to end up in the hospital or even die, new research shows.

Many experts feel behavioral interventions should be tried first and antipsychotics used as a last resort, “when the behavior or the psychiatric symptoms are really out of control and causing complete distress not only for the person suffering from Alzheimer’s, but for caregivers all around them,” said Maria Carrillo, director of medical and scientific affairs at the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago. “It’s important to work these things out with the physician and, of course, do follow-up very closely together, so you can make sure these antipsychotics are having the effect you want and, if not, discontinue them immediately.”

The findings were published in the May 26 issue of theArchives of Internal Medicine.

Antipsychotic drugs are commonly used to treat some of the behavioral complications of dementia, including delirium. Newer antipsychotic medications such as Zyprexa (olanzapine) and Risperdal (risperidone) have been available for about a decade and have largely replaced their older counterparts.

Researchers from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Ontario, Canada, compared 20,682 older adults with dementia living in the community with 20,559 older adults with dementia living in a nursing home between April 1, 1997, and March 31, 2004.

Each group was divided into three subgroups: those not receiving any antipsychotics, those taking newer antipsychotics, and those taking older antipsychotics such as Haldol (haloperidol). According to information gleaned from medical records, community-dwelling adults who had recently received a prescription for a newer antipsychotic medication were 3.2 times more likely than individuals who had received no antipsychotic therapy to be hospitalized or to die during 30 days of follow-up.

Those who received older antipsychotic therapy were 3.8 times more likely to have such an event, relative to their peers who had received no antipsychotic therapy.

A similar pattern, albeit less dramatic, emerged in the nursing home group. Individuals taking older antipsychotics were 2.4 times more likely to be hospitalized or die, while those taking newer drugs were 1.9 times more likely to die or be hospitalized during the 30 days of follow-up.

The study does, however, have its limitations. “It’s a carefully done study,” Kennedy said. “One flaw is that the [participants] weren’t randomly administered antipsychotics. There was some reason they were given an antipsychotic, such as aggression or agitation. It may have been done if they were recently admitted to the nursing home as part of the adjustment process.

Indeed, the authors acknowledged that about 17 percent of patients entering nursing homes start taking an antipsychotic within 100 days. “For any of us, moving is like being sick. It takes a while to recover,” Kennedy said. “We need other sets of interventions besides medications. What that implies is more staffing and better training for staff, and that may not be a whole lot more expensive than medicines.”

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury from nursing home medication errors or other neglect or abuse in a nursing home or care facility that serves the elderly in Minnesota please contact our firm for a free consultation and information regarding the obligations of the facility and your rights as a resident or concerned family member.

To contact Attorney Kenneth L. LaBore, directly for a Free Consultation, please send an email to, or call Ken at 612-743-9048 or toll free at 1-888-452-6589.


Free Consultation on Issues of Elder Abuse and Neglect Serving all of Minnesota Toll Free 1-888-452-6589
Free Consultation on Issues of Elder Abuse and Neglect Serving all of Minnesota Toll Free 1-888-452-6589


Information to Help Prevent Nursing Home Medication Errors
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