As people get older, they may become more dependent on others in their lives to help them. For instance, a daughter may need to run errands and get groceries for her aging mother, or a nursing home resident might heavily rely on the home’s staff to provide appropriate medical attention and help with day-to-day activities.
In elder abuse cases where a caretaker, family member or staff member does not take the necessary steps to ensure an older person’s safety and health (both mental and physical), negligence can be a contributing factor and can lead to serious charges and penalties under California law.
Medication errors are a common form of nursing home negligence, and in some cases, can amount to abuse. It may seem like administering medicine should be quite a simple task, but medication errors occur all too often. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that medication errors in nursing homes affect 16% to 27% of residents. The actual number is likely much higher, as many instances of medication errors go undetected or unreported. While most medication errors produce mild to no harm, severe medication errors can cause permanent disability or even death. Contact our California elder abuse lawyers if someone you love has been negatively affected by medication errors.
Negligence in California Nursing Homes and Assisted Living
Negligence can be deliberate or accidental, but in either instance, the negligent party is acting in a way that does not benefit the victim and may even cause significant harm. When determining whether a caretaker was negligent, it is important to first consider the duty of care that the accused abuser owed to the victim. Anyone in a position of caregiving or assistance has a responsibility to act in their patient’s best interest and to be responsible and proactive in taking care of that individual.
For example, a nurse in an assisted living home has a responsibility to take care of the residents under his or her watch by bringing them food and drink, giving them basic medical care, administering medicine as needed, and much more. If the nurse fails to uphold those responsibilities in any way, he or she can be considered negligent. This could include forgetting to bring a resident water and/or drinks during the day, or deliberately withholding medical care when a resident needs it. Each action is on the extreme end of the spectrum, but both cause harm to the resident and violate the nurse’s responsibility to take care of the resident.
Our California Elder Abuse Lawyers Handle Medication Errors as a Result of Negligence
Most medication errors are the result of negligence. In nursing homes, administering medication is a significant undertaking for staff and requires close communication between patients’ doctors and the nursing home staff handling the medication. Medication errors can occur at any point along this chain of command and can be committed by anyone — doctors, nurses, certified nursing assistants (CNAs) orderlies, and technicians. Some examples of negligent medication errors include:
- Prescribing a medication that may have adverse reactions with other drugs the patient is taking
- Administering the wrong medication
- Administering the wrong form of medication (i.e., pill vs. liquid)
- Using an incorrect administration technique (i.e., oral vs. intravenous)
- Administering expired medication
- Administering too much or too little of a particular medication
- Skipping doses of a medication
- Administering doses of medication at the wrong time
- Administering a medication required to be taken with food on an empty stomach
- Slicing or cutting pills that should not be split
- Failing to document the administration of a medication
- Failing to monitor the patient after administering the medication when required
There are many reasons why medication errors occur, but most can be traced back to the causes of general nursing home negligence. Understaffing, improper training, miscommunications, and staff burnout all contribute to errors in administering medication and many other forms of nursing home neglect.
Deliberate Medical Negligence
Receiving prompt, accurate medical care and attention is critical for many older people in maintaining their qualities of living and their health status. When this care is withheld for whatever reason, it can cause serious illness or even death.
A huge part of this medical care is daily medications. Many older people have pills they need to take every day at specific times to keep them going and to control any medical conditions, age-related or otherwise. If people who need medication do not receive it, there could be an issue of neglect or abuse. Administering medication properly is part of the responsibility placed on a caretaker, but if a caretaker repeatedly forgets to provide medication, even if it is done accidentally, this puts the older dependent at risk. Even worse is when the caretaker refuses to provide medication on purpose — such acts can certainly be deemed neglect and abuse.
Intentional Medication Errors
Intentional medication errors are less common than the negligent variety, but they are a major form of nursing home abuse. Typically, deliberate medication errors occur when the perpetrator wants to punish or subdue the victim or as a show of power. Some examples of intentional medication errors include:
- Withholding medication
- Over- and under-medication — including potentially fatal drugs such as fentanyl and morphine
- Administering a medication the victim has refused
- Administering a medication the perpetrator knows will harm the victim
- Use of medication as a form of restraint
Intentional medication errors are considered very serious breaches of California Patients’ Rights and can expose the perpetrators to stiff civil and criminal penalties. In some cases, they can lead to severe long-term consequences or even death. If you are aware of intentional medication errors being committed in a hospice, assisted living facility or nursing home, you should consider speaking to our California nursing home abuse lawyers as soon as possible to stop the practice and prevent further harm.
Fight Back Against Assisted Living and Nursing Home Abuse with Our Skilled Attorneys
At the Evans Law Firm, Inc., we work to protect victims of elder abuse from further negligence and mistreatment and help them bring their abusers to justice. Our San Mateo County elder abuse lawyers are well-versed in California law and know how to prove negligence and misconduct when it occurs. For more information or to discuss your case, contact us online or by phone at 415-441-8669 today. Our offices are conveniently located in Los Angeles and San Francisco.