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Help Protect Your Loved One from Medication Errors

Medication errors are an ongoing concern for nursing home residents. Mistakes can result in dangerous health problems, hospitalization or even death.

If your elderly loved one is living in such a facility, you should be alert to the potential problems and why they happen. You can take an active role in seeing that your loved one can enjoy a nursing home environment without the danger of serious medication issues.

Know the causes of medication errors

Studies indicate that medical errors affect one in five nursing home residents and that 37 percent of these are medication mistakes. This can happen for many reasons: 

  • Misdiagnosis leads to the wrong prescription.
  • The transcription of the prescription or dosage is incorrect.
  • There is confusion about the proper way to administer the medication.
  • The nursing facility is understaffed.
  • There is a harmful interaction with other medications.

Become educated in the medicine

Many elderly people take several medications for long-term health issues such as high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. Maintain an updated list of your own about the meds the nursing home resident is taking. Check the active ingredients in each — these are the chemical compounds that work to treat the condition or relieve symptoms. Discuss these ingredients with your pharmacist or your loved one’s doctor to make sure there are no dangerous interactions between the different drugs. Make notations as to how often and at what time of day each is to be taken, then go over the list with the appropriate nursing home staff.

Make an unscheduled visit

Visit your loved one often. Ideally, make some unscheduled visits to the nursing home to observe general daily operations that affect the resident and to see how he or she is getting along. If you notice anything that looks or feels off — the patient seems lethargic or petulant, or displays some other kind of uncharacteristic behavior — start asking questions of the staff. The more follow-up you engage in about the medications your loved one is taking, the better the care he or she can receive.