Review of the Most Commonly Occurring Assisted Living Medication Errors

Medication errors are among the most frequently occurring types of medical mistake in this day and age, including within assisted living facilities in California and across the United States. In this article, review some of the most commonly occurring assisted living medication errors:

  • Wrong medication
  • Wrong medication dosage
  • Failure to provide medication in timely manner
  • Medication given to wrong resident
  • Incorrect route of administration
  • Failure to follow directions
  • Failure to confirm medication allergies
  • Failure to check medicine compatibility
  • Administering medication without resident consent
  • Improper use of medication
  • Failure to monitor for side effects
  • Missing medication dose
  • Overlook resident medical history
  • Not providing proper medication education

Wrong Medication

It may be hard to imagine, but the issuance of the wrong medication to an assisted living resident is rather commonplace. This type of error occurs for a number of reasons that include illegible prescriptions, faulty medication management systems, improperly labeled medications, and other issues. 

Wrong Medication Dosage

On a somewhat related note, another common medication error in long-term care facilities, including assisted living, is the incorrect medication dosage. This can occur in an assisted living community when a resident is provided his or her medication too often or by giving a resident too much for what is supposed to be one dosage. 

Failure to Provide Medication in Timely Manner

Medications are to be taken by a resident at specific times of the day (in some cases, of the night). The failure to provide an assisted living resident access to his or her medication at the proper time can have negative consequences. There are also instances in which a resident is provided incorrect timing directives when he or she receives a prescription. 

Medication Given to Wrong Patient 

This is yet another medication error in assisted living that might seem surprising at first blush – but it does happen with some regularity. Giving medication to the wrong patient does occur and can end up injuring two individuals rather than just one. This can happen when assisted living staff is distracted. It also occurs when two patients are on medications with similar packaging or names.

Incorrect Route of Administration

Taking a medication the wrong way – incorrect route of administration – is an example of medication error. For example, if a medication is in a time release formulation, grinding up a tablet to mix in a beverage to make it easier to take is an example of incorrect route of administration. Taking a time release medication in this manner can defeat the need for the medication to enter a person’s system over time and not all at once.

Failure to Follow Directions

Time and again, medication errors occur because a resident of an assisted living community fails to follow directions. Remember: in assisted living, the resident self-administers medications unless there is a nurse or other qualified medical professional that for some reason or another is available to do so. The assisted living community is charged with the responsibility of overseeing resident medication management.

Failure to Confirm Medication Allergies

Keep in mind that medication errors can occur up and down the medication management chain – from the prescribing physician to the resident living center staff member overseeing medication management in a facility to the resident his or her self. Another of the more commonplace medication errors is a failure to fully vet possible medication allergies.

Failure to Check Medication Compatibility

On a somewhat related note, a medication error that occurs with some regularity is a break down in checking drug compatibility. In other words, a resident of an assisted living community ends up taking incompatible medications, a situation that can have highly negative consequences.

Administering Without Resident Consent

This is another issue that may seem like an impossibility, but once in a while, a resident of an assisted living community will be administered some type of medication without his or her consent. This seems more likely to occur with a resident of an assisted living community who is accessing supplemental assistance from a home care aide. 

Improper Use of Medication

With many medications, there are so-called off-label uses that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Thus, the use of a medication for an approved off-label purpose is acceptable when prescribed appropriately. On the other hand, the use of a medication for a reason not approved is not acceptable. Moreover, providing another resident’s medication to an individual residing in an assisted living community is also not permissible. 

Failure to Monitor for Side Effects

One of the key tasks of staff in an assisted living community is monitoring a resident for drug side effects as part of a broader medication management program. The failure to reasonably monitor a resident for medication side effects is an example of medication-related error in assisted living.

Missing Medication Dose

Medications are to be taken at the times prescribed. The failure to follow these directives can be considered to be medication error. It can have significantly negative consequences for the resident prescribed that medication. 

Overlook Resident Medical History

The failure to appropriately consider a person’s medical history prior to prescribing a particular medication can result in a variety of problems, issues, and even harm. The failure to appropriately consider the medical history of an assisted living resident before prescribing a medication to that individual can be considered medication error. In some situations, the staff of an assisted living community may be called up to assist in detailing a resident’s medical history when a physician is considering a particular medication for that individual.

Not Providing Proper Medication Education

Finally, it absolutely is an example of medication error to fail to provide a patient – in this case, a resident of assisted living – proper education and information about a particular medication. A person needs to understand what the medication is intended to do, the risks involved in taking the drug, and to be provided information about potential side effects. 

In conclusion, a well-designed medication management system in an assisted living community is the primary pathway to preventing medication errors. A medication management system protects the health and wellbeing of residents of assisted living communities.