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How common are adverse drug events?

It's been said that very few medical settings are as challenging as the nursing home. Almost all patients have multiple medical issues, for example, making it chaotic and complex. On top of that, 70 percent of those in nursing homes are dealing with some level of cognitive impairment.

As such, mistakes do happen. Often, these mistakes involve drugs and medications. How common is this?

According to one study, there are around 10 adverse drug events for every 100 resident months. So, if a nursing home had exactly 100 residents, this would mean 10 mistakes per month. If it had 300 residents, though, there would be 30 such mistakes in a month. It's easier to calculate the rates based on resident months because different facilities have different numbers of patients and patients may cycle through unpredictably.

Some of these events were not considered preventable, but 40 percent were. The study also found that these preventable errors happened during monitoring and ordering most often. Furthermore, all manner of drugs were involved, including antipsychotic drugs, diuretics, anticoagulants, and antiepileptics. These four categories were deemed to be a "special risk" when compared to other types of medications.

One of the big reasons cited for these mistakes was communication issues. Medical decisions may not always be made in person, but on the phone, so there is a chance for miscommunication during this step that leads to the wrong medication being given out, the wrong drug being prescribed, the wrong dosage being administered, and the like.

When you put your loved one in a nursing home, you expect him or her to get a high level of care. If mistakes undermine this care and lead to serious consequences, be sure you know what rights you and your family may have to seek compensation.

Source: PS Net, "Medication Safety in Nursing Homes: What's Wrong and How to Fix It," Jerry Gurwitz, accessed Oct. 13, 2016

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