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Nursing homes need methods to prevent medication errors

On Behalf of | Jul 21, 2017 | Nursing Home Abuse And Neglect

There are many things that nursing home residents and their loved ones have to worry about. One of these is whether or not they are getting the correct medications at the correct times. There are many things that can go wrong with medication administration in these care facilities.

One study that was done overseas looked into whether medication administration robots could help reduce the instance of medication errors. The results were a bit shocking. The study found that even when robots got the medications together for dispensing, errors are still made.

The main problem is nursing home employees

Nonetheless, this study found that the issue with medication administration is with the employees who pass out medications. It pointed out that there is a need to increase training that these individuals go through. Without proper training, employees can still make errors that can lead to patient harm.

The study took a look into three nursing homes, and the results point to an industry-wide problem that has to be addressed before residents begin to suffer harm at a more alarming rate than they do now.

Some nursing home residents are at a marked disadvantage when it comes to medication errors. They might not be able to notice problems with their medications. This could mean that they don’t get the medications that they need or that they are getting the incorrect medications without recognizing that there is a problem until they are facing serious issues because of the medication errors.

The problem of chemical restraints

Medication should never be used as a way to control patients. While there are some instances where sedatives are required for people who are out of control, the truth is that some nursing home patients have been put on medications to make them easier to deal with. Some medications make them tired, so they sleep all day and can’t be argumentative. Other medications may make them confused or dazed, so they comply with the nurse’s or aid’s wishes without causing trouble.

What should you do if you believe medications are being used incorrectly in a nursing home?

The first thing to do is to verify why the medication is being given to your loved one. For example, an antianxiety medication may be given to a patient for panic attacks. During those attacks, they take the medication and feel better. However, using those medications every day (against the intended purpose) could make someone very sick depending on their strength and side effects. It may help control them, make them drowsy or keep them from panicking and calling the nurses, but it’s not the right way to use the medication.

If you find that antipsychotics or other medications are being used to chemically restrain your loved one, it’s simply for the purpose of making them “easier to handle.” That’s not fair to them, and it can lead to side effects, complications and accidents.

What is overmedication?

Overmedication involves the overuse of certain medications. It can have severe effects on patient health, and even be fatal. For that reason, many long-term care facilities are working hard to prevent it from happening. One step that has been taken successfully has been reducing off-label use of anti-psychotic drugs for patients with dementia. Of course, there are many other steps that need to be taken.

What can be done about it?

One necessitates that family members of patients make sure that the patients bring complete lists of the medications they are taking every time they go to the doctor. The list must include all over-the counter and all prescription medications. Some of the medications may be contraindicated in the presence of others, which means that it may be dangerous for a patient to take Medication A if the patient is also taking Medication B.

What else helps?

Patients, and their families, should also ensure that there is comprehensive communication with each doctor they go to about both the intended effects and the side effects of each medication. That dialogue will help patients to understand why they need to take medications in the amounts that they are prescribed. That is critical, as too little or too much of any medication can result in harm to the patient, which is why doctors writing prescriptions need all the information they can get to make sure that the amounts they prescribe are just right. Patients and their families can help a lot by keeping meticulous records of when each medication is taken, how much of it is taken and how the patient responded.