Articles Posted in Medication Errors

ian-schneider-95541-300x200For anyone in Carlsbad who has an elderly loved one residing in a nearby nursing home, it can be difficult to learn about risks related to certain types of medications. In some situations, however, the use of certain drugs in nursing homes may significantly increase a senior’s risk for pneumonia. In particular, patients with Alzheimer’s disease may be particularly susceptible. While we often hear about the dangers of over-medication and the off-label use of antipsychotic drugs, discussed relatively recently in a story by NPR, it is not as common for us to hear about prescription sedatives and pneumonia risks among patients with dementia. According to a recent article in Medical News Today, new research suggests that patients with dementia may be at greater risk for developing pneumonia, especially when they are prescribed sedatives such as benzodiazepines.

If a dementia patient on certain prescription medications develops pneumonia, could it be a result of nursing home neglect?

Nursing Home Prescriptions and Elder Neglect

Fb9bc088db57af5328b8a36aa37a8e6e_article-300x169If your elderly loved one resides in a San Diego nursing home and requires antibiotics for a bacterial infection, can you trust that your loved one is receiving the proper medication? According to a report from Kaiser Health News, “antibiotics are prescribed incorrectly to ailing nursing home residents up to 75 percent of the time,” based on data gathered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When seniors are not provided with the right antibiotics, the antibiotics can lose their effectiveness, leading those same seniors to develop serious and life-threatening conditions at a later date when those antibiotics no longer function as they should. Do these medication errors rise to the level of nursing home abuse or neglect? What can you do to help your elderly parent to avoid contracting a superbug at a nursing facility in Southern California?

Learning More About the Rise of Superbugs in Nursing Homes

As the article explains, just about one year ago, the CDC advised nursing homes across the country that they needed to take immediate action “to protect more than 4 million residents from hard-to-treat superbugs that are growing in number and resist antibiotics.” Elderly people in California nursing homes are particularly vulnerable to superbugs because their immune systems are not as strong as they once were. As the CDC has emphasized, “one way to keep older Americans safe from these superbugs is to make sure antibiotics are used appropriately all the time and everywhere, particularly in nursing homes.”

When nursing home neglect happens, elderly patients can sustain serious and life-threatening injuries.  But a recent article in the New York Times suggests that care facilities may need to pay particular attention to residents who take high blood pressure medication.  What’s going on with blood pressure medication?  In short, patients who take these drugs might be much more likely to suffer injuries in a dangerous fall.  And, according to the article, “more than 70 percent of those over age 70 contend with high blood pressure.”

Old Guy
Has your elderly loved one sustained injuries in a fall?  Nursing homes and assisted living facilities have a duty to keep residents safe, and many advocates in California currently are working to make RCFEs safer places for residents.  Don’t hesitate to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego nursing home abuse lawyer.  At the Walton Law Firm, we are dedicated to helping victims of elder abuse, and we can answer your questions today.

New Study: Link Between High Blood Pressure and Serious Fall Injuries

The family of an 84-year-old nursing home resident was stunned to learn the cause of their father’s death – an overdose of morphine. They were doubly stunned when then also learned that there was no order by a physician prescribing the drug.

The case is the focus of a criminal prosecution of the nursing home’s director of nursing, Penny Whitlock, who faces charges of criminal elder neglect for allowing an employee at Woodstock Residence Nursing Home to overmedicate nursing home patients with morphine. According to reports, it was common knowledge that Whitlock was administering morphine without a doctor’s consent, and was even warned by other employees about the risks, but continued the practice, which is suspected to have contributed to several other deaths.

Whitlock faces three years in prison.

From the New York Times:

A study from the Archives of Internal Medicine found that elderly people who take narcotic-based drugs for pain face an elevate risk of bone fractures, heart attacks and death than those who take a non-narcotic pain reliever. In what is considered the first large-scale effort to examine the safety risks associated with narcotic pain relievers, researchers concluded that narcotics were more dangerous than non-narcotics, contrary to popular belief.

“Doctors should not assume that opioids are a safer alternative,” said Daniel H. Solomon, the study’s researcher, said in a telephone interview on Monday. “They seem to carry profound risks to cardiovascular system as well as increased risk fractures and appear to be associated with increased risk of death.”

stop-sign1.pngThe California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) has launched a comprehensive website that addresses the growing problem of drug misuse in California nursing homes. Every day, approximately 25,000 California nursing home patients are given an antipsychotic drug. Half of all dementia patients are administered these drugs despite FDA warnings these drugs can kill a dementia patient.

Because of this CANHR has launched a campaign to help end the drugging of California nursing home residents. CANHR states its goal this way:

The goal of the campaign is to stop nursing homes and doctors from misusing dangerous antipsychotic drugs and other types of psychoactive drugs to chemically restrain residents and to replace drugging with individualized care. Through education, advocacy and political action, we seek to bring Californians together to end this harmful practice.

A resident of St. Edna skilled nursing facility in Santa Ana (a Covenant Care facility) was awarded $3.1 million by an Orange County after the jury found that the nursing home failed to recognize that the resident was overdosing on morphine. The jury also found that the nursing home acted with malice or oppression, and will award punitive damages at a hearing next Tuesday.

St. Edna’s was among the many California nursing homes who received $880 million in Medi-Cal compensation from the state in a program that began in 2004, and was designed to promote care and avoid staffing deficiencies. Many homes that received the additional money still reduced staffing, despite profiting from the additional funds. Apparently St. Ednas was one of those homes.

In this case, Barbara Lefforge was admitted to St. Edna on Sept. 17, 2007, to rehabilitate from tendon repair surgery. Her surgeon mistakenly recommended 50 mg of morphine for pain instead of 50 mg of Demerol. That is a huge dose of morphine, which Lefforge’s attorney argued should have been promptly caught by the nursing home staff. According to reports, a nurse at the facility could not get the full does, so took 30 mg from an office emergency kit and gave it to Lefforge, who suffered an overdose, which itself went unnoticed by the staff. She suffered a major brain injury.

San Diego’s 10News I-Team has conducted an investigation into what it is calling the chemical restraint of elderly residents of nursing homes. That is, using anti-psychotic drugs not necessarily for their prescribed use, but to control behavior in residents who otherwise wouldn’t be candidates for the drugs.

The investigation profiles the family of Dr. Keith Blair, a retired dentist, who died at age 86 after a stay at Arbor Hills Nursing Center in La Mesa. The family contends Dr. Blair’s death was expedited by the use of the anti-psychotic drugs Risperdal and Haldol that were given without consent. Both drugs contain warnings that state the drugs are “associated with an increased risk of mortality in elderly patients.”

Upon one visit to the nursing home to see her father, Marian Hollingsworth told the I-Team that her father was “completely out of it. I shook him on the bed, I hollered his name. I asked the nurse what was going on. I couldn’t wake him up. She said, ‘Oh, he was sleepy last night.'”

A nursing home caregiver is being charged with second degree murder after the death of an Alzheimer’s patient in a North Carolina nursing home. Authorities believe that caregiver Angela Almore deliberately administered large quantities of morphine to 84-year-old patient Rachel Holliday in order to make her “more manageable.” It is believed that other residents were also given the drug for this purpose, and cite six other Alzheimer’s patients who required hospitalization while under the care of Almore.

The arrest and indictment of Almore stems from an investigation by Medicaid Investigations, who launched an investigation after nine of 25 patients in the nursing home’s Alzheimer’s wing at the nursing home tested positive for opiates. Sadly the use of opiates and other psychotropic drugs to control patient behavior is an ongoing problem at nursing homes across the country. Here at Walton Law Firm we have had several cases involving the improper use of medications, which exposes nursing home residents to untold number of dangers, including overdose, falls, or simply a loss of dignity.

Almore’s next court date is set for July 13.

Last year, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration began investigating allegations that some nursing homes were dispensing powerful narcotics to nursing home residents without a physician order. Because of the new scrutiny, however, nursing home and hospice trade organizations are arguing that many patients are now being left without pain medication as the nursing facilities try to find ways to comply with DEA regulations. Congress has also taken notice, and the subject will be addressed at a Senate hearing today.

The DEA intensified its efforts to battle abuse of prescription drugs in nursing home, after numerous reports of overmedication of patients in nursing facilities, many without prescription, and frequently used as a “chemical restraint,” not to treat a specific illness. In a letter to Congress last December, attorneys for the DEA said that allowing nurses to dispense medications without a doctor’s order, “trivializes the doctor-patient relationship and weakens the quality of care for the frail and infirm.”

Nursing home trade organizations, however, say that long-term care facilities don’t make available enough doctors to issue prescriptions every time. The DEA’s requirement on “hard copy prescriptions,” it says, places burdens on prescribers, pharmacists and nurses, and can lead to extended delays in the administration of pain medication.”