Articles Posted in Medication Errors

According to the Kaiser Health News, an average of 21 percent of nursing home residents are readmitted to the hospital within 100 days of returning to their nursing home. Now, Medicare plans to crack down on these nursing homes who either allow nursing home residents to return too quickly or fail to properly administer the resident’s post-hospitalization care. According to Medicare, most nursing home patients are readmitted for mostly preventable problems, such as dehydration, bedsores, infections, and medication errors. While patient advocates believe there can be significant room for improvement in these re-hospitalization rates, they also caution against punishing nursing homes who send their elderly residents to the hospital.

According to a government report, cited by NPR, a full 10.8 percent of re-hospitalizations are preventable. The causes for the high rate of unnecessary hospitalizations are numerous. First, the nursing home may not follow the hospital’s post-hospitalization care routine for their resident. In one example cited by the news organization, nurses at a nursing home in North Carolina injected a patient with a blood thinner twice a day – despite written instructions from a hospital doctor to cease all blood thinning medication. The second cause concerns overloaded hospitals, which would prefer to offload patients onto nursing homes in an effort to free-up space for more patients.

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A recent report by StatNews shows that many nursing homes across the country are refusing to admit elderly Americans with opioid addictions, and failing to effectively treat those with addiction already placed in their care. According to the newspaper, elderly Americans who have been prescribed methadone or buprenorphine, medications commonly used to treat opioid addiction, face the “next to impossible” task of being admitted to a nursing home. According to experts cited by the newspaper, many facilities fail to admit these patients because “of stigma, gaps in staff training and a widespread misconception that abstinence is superior to medications for treating addiction.”

Nursing homes appear unaware that denying admission because of an opioid addiction violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to a nurse at Boston Medical Center, only two nursing homes in Boston accept patients taking medication for an opioid addiction. According to the Department of Justice, the government is planning to increase enforcement of facilities that discriminate against individuals taking prescription medication for opioid addiction. Currently, the government agency is looking at detention centers and prisons to ensure compliance. However, the Department of Justice has promised to extend the enforcement push to nursing homes within the year.

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Mirroring national trends, elderly Americans are beginning to use more addictive prescription drugs. In a report by the New York Times, the number of prescriptions for benzodiazepines, a class of anxiety drugs which includes Xanax and opioids have markedly increased in the last couple decades. Not only do these addictive drugs have serious side effects, they can be deadly to the user, sometimes even when taken as prescribed.

According to the newspaper, the number of benzodiazepine prescriptions for Americans over the age of 65 increased 8.7 percent between 2003 and 2010, the year with the most recent data available. A 2008 study indicated that about 9 percent of adults between 65 and 80 took one of these anti-anxiety drugs. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) paints an even more ominous picture of the problem – the number of deaths caused by benzodiazepines in Americans over the age of 65 rose from 63 deaths in 1999 to 431 in 2015. In 1999, opioids were a contributing cause of 29 percent of these deaths. A mere fifteen years later, opioid drugs now contribute to two-thirds of deaths caused by benzodiazepines.

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