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Illinois nursing home medication mistakes attorneysA person would not be staying in a nursing home if he or she did not have physical or mental health issues that necessitate around-the-clock care. The majority of nursing home residents are on one or more medications in order to manage the symptoms caused by their health issues. When nursing home staff fail to give residents their medications on time or in the correct dosages, serious complications can result. In some cases, medication errors can even result in a resident’s death. If your loved one has suffered because a negligent nursing home facility failed to properly administer medication, you may have a valid personal injury claim.

Medication Mistakes Can Seriously Harm vulnerable Nursing Home Residents

While some minor medication errors may not cause the resident harm, other medication mistakes can cause severe damage. There are federal regulations that prohibit nursing home staff from making serious medication errors. Some of the most concerning nursing home medication-related mistakes include:

  • Giving the resident the wrong medication or mixing up two residents’ medications
  • Improperly administering the medication
  • Giving the resident medicine that is expired or spoiled
  • Administering too much or too little of a medication
  • Prescribing the wrong medication for the resident’s health concern

Why Do Medication Mistakes Occur?

A great deal of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are understaffed. One recent study showed that a deplorable 75 percent of nursing homes do not have enough registered nurses. Working at a nursing home can be grueling work and many nursing home staff are compensated very little for their time and effort. Unfortunately, this means that many facilities have trouble maintaining enough staff to care for residents’ needs. However, this is not an excuse for a nursing home to provide substandard care. The Illinois Nursing Home Care Act obliges long-term care facilities to provide adequate medical treatment to residents. When a nursing home fails to uphold its duty to properly care for a resident, the facility may be legally responsible for the damages that result.

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Chicago nursing home abuse and neglect attorneysMore and more individuals are admitted to nursing homes and assisted living facilities every day. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you may worry about the quality of care they are receiving. Because many elderly and disabled nursing home residents are not able to speak up for themselves when they are being mistreated, it is up to their loved ones to ensure they are being adequately cared for.

Nursing home neglect and abuse are tragically not uncommon occurrences. One sign that nursing home residents are being neglected is when they do not receive their medications on time and in the accurate doses. Medication errors are especially dangerous to those with pre-existing medical conditions and compromised immune systems.

Examples of Medication Errors

The administration of medication is not always as simple as giving a nursing home resident a pill and a glass of water. Individuals staying in a nursing home often have serious illnesses or incapacities which make them especially vulnerable. Examples of medication errors which occur in nursing homes include:

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Chicago nursing home medication error lawyerData shows that about 1.5 million individuals are living in nursing homes across the United States. As the “Baby Boomer” generation ages, more and more people will need the intensive care that nursing homes and assisted living facilities offer. It has never been more important for those with loved ones in nursing homes to hold the facility and staff within it responsible for their actions. Many nursing homes are understaffed or have staff members who have not been adequately trained. This can result in the residents receiving poor care and consequently worsened medical conditions. One way inadequate staff put residents at risk is through medication errors.

Fragile Health Means Medication Mistakes Can Be Deadly

Those who live in a nursing home are usually there because they have numerous medical conditions, are functionally impaired, have cognitive deficits such as dementia, and are currently on medication which requires supervision. For some residents, their health issues are purely physical, but approximately 70% of residents experience cognitive impairment which makes them unable to understand and remember everything which happens to them. The combination of serious medical issues and cognitive impairment can leave nursing home residents extremely vulnerable to mismanaged medication. In fact, needing help taking their required medications is one of the main reasons some individuals end up in nursing homes. Unfortunately, nursing home staff sometimes make errors with resident’s medication which can put them at risk of injury, illness, or even death.

Examples of Medication Errors That Put Residents at Risk

There are countless ways that nursing home staff can make mistakes when administering medication to residents. MEdciation errors which most frequently occur include:

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Chicago nursing home abuse attorneyMany nursing home residents are prescribed opioid medication to manage severe pain. These opioid drugs have been controversial recently because of their extreme addictive properties. They are also dangerous in that an overdose of an opioid medication such as OxyContin, morphine, codeine, Fentanyl, or hydrocodone is often fatal. While these drugs offer relief for patients in severe pain, the presence of opioids in a nursing home often leads to trouble.

Illinois Nurse Caught Stealing Fentanyl Patches

A nurse from Bloomington has been accused of removing pain-relieving opioid patches from the bodies of nursing home residents. The man allegedly visited both the nursing home he worked at as well as a second nursing home in order to steal the patches off of terminally ill patients. He was recently charged with burglary and theft after co-workers noticed that he had come into work on his day off. He was found to also have stolen fentanyl patches from a resident with dementia. Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Horve requested a $50,000 bond because of what he called “the egregious nature of the offenses.”

Overdose of Oxycodone Kills Minnesota Resident

Another dangerous element to opioids being prescribed in nursing homes is the risk of overdose. When medical staff are not properly trained or the nursing home facility is understaffed, deadly mistakes can be made with regard to opioid medication. For example, in January, a resident recovering from cancer was given over 20 times the prescribed dose of oxycodone. The resident was later found unresponsive on the floor of their room and eventually passed away. When asked about her gross mistake, the nurse who administered the deadly drug claimed she was "busy with multiple patients."

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Chicago nursing home abuse lawyersStaff at a nursing home have a responsibility to keep the residents of a nursing home safe and as comfortable as possible. When families place a loved one in a nursing home, they are assuming that the medical staff there will treat the new resident with appropriate medical care. Tragically, this is not always the case. Some nursing homes are understaffed or their staff is not adequately trained, which can result in medicine being given superfluously or necessary medicine being withheld.

Alarming Study Results 

According to a recent study conducted by the Human Rights Watch, approximately 179,000 nursing home residents are being given medicine which is not intended to treat the illness they have. Antipsychotic drugs such as aripiprazole, olanzapine, and quetiapine are used to manage psychosis. Individuals suffering from delusions, hallucinations, paranoia or a disconnection from reality are generally given these medications as a treatment for schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The problem is that about 179,000 nursing home residents being given this medicine do not have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or other mental illnesses that those drugs are designed to treat.

Many of the residents being given these medications have Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia which antipsychotics are not approved to treat. Even more disturbing, antipsychotic drugs come with a "black box warning" from the FDA.  Black box warnings are the strictest labeling requirements that the FDA can mandate. These warnings are used to call attention to serious or life-threatening risks associated with the medication. The black box warning on antipsychotics states that they increase the risk of death in older people with dementia. The study also found that antipsychotic drugs were administered to residents without their informed consent. The purpose of using antipsychotic medications for residents who do not require them is often to make dementia patients “easier to handle” in understaffed facilities.

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