Giving a pill to someone in a nursing home who needs medication is not quite as simple as it sounds.

Errors related to the administration of medications are common, a troubling fact for families of nursing home residents.

Medication standards

State inspectors are responsible for identifying the rate of medication errors in hospitals and nursing homes. In the latter, the rate must remain below 5%, an acceptable percentage that represents the standard. If the error rate rises above 5%, the nursing home must develop a plan to correct the problem. The inspectors could put serious medication errors in the category of nursing home neglect, or possibly even abuse.

The “med pass”

A “med pass” refers to the process of giving medications to nursing home residents according to doctors’ orders. Your loved one probably receives prescription meds from a registered nurse. However, in some facilities, an unlicensed staff member carries out the med pass under a nurse’s supervision. This activity usually takes four to five hours, including organizing the medications to begin with, and documenting the actual administration.

Medication errors

There are various causes for medication errors:

  • Slicing a pill that should not be split
  • Failing to follow instructions about providing adequate liquids
  • Failing to provide antacids or food according to medication instructions
  • Not mixing or shaking the medication, which is important for insulin suspensions
  • Not following protocol in providing medications to those fed through a tube
  • Improperly giving eye drops

Family follow-up

If you believe a medication error has caused harm to your loved one, you can look into the possibility of malpractice. With legal guidance, you and your family can obtain a case review and determine the appropriate action to take.