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Medication errors: Problematic in some New Mexico facilities

If you're currently researching nursing homes to help an aging parent transition to assisted living, you might feel anxious or worried about finding a facility that's a good fit for your loved one's needs. Perhaps your family member has already moved into a new residence and you have noticed certain issues that are causing your concern. Sadly, nursing home negligence causes many injuries every year, some of which are fatal.

You can't be with your loved one 24/7. You have a right to reasonably expect that his or her caregivers are providing high-quality care around the clock, in accordance with New Mexico laws and accepted safety standards. Your loved one might be one of many nursing home residents who need medication. There are numerous ways to avoid errors when giving patients medicine. Problems can arise if a staff member disregards protocol.

Protocol protects your loved one

Your family member might receive care from many different nursing home workers. Part of the reason for stringent protocol regarding medication is to prevent mistakes when staff members change shifts or your parent's physician makes a change in his or her prescription. If you or your loved one have a question or concern, it's always best to discuss the issue with nursing home officials.

Medication errors are often preventable; yet, more than seven million people a year suffer injuries due to errors that occur because of nursing negligence. There is a cross-check system in place that helps workers avoid serious mistakes.

How the system works

Nurses often refer to the medication protection system as "The Five Rs." Nurses must be diligent in following the steps of the system, which include making sure that they are administering the right medication at the right time in the right dose to the right patient through the right means (meaning orally, by injection or topically).

In a nursing home setting, someone should definitely supervise your loved one if he or she is able to consume oral medication independently. No one should ever hand him or her a pill and then walk away before the patient swallows it. You can help keep your parent safe by learning as much as you can about the medications he or she needs to take, as well as the system the nursing home has in place to prevent errors.

If an injury occurs

Not every medication error sparks a life-threatening situation. However, many drugs, such as strong narcotics or drugs that don't interact well together, may cause your loved one serious complications that require emergency medical care. Other medication mistakes can impede the treatment or healing process.

By all means, if you're concerned about a medication issue or any other aspect of your loved one's nursing home care, further investigate the matter. It's a good idea to know where to seek additional support if you're not satisfied with the answers nursing administrators are giving you.

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