Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

Older adults may have long-term or chronic illnesses that require medication to treat. Seniors that live in nursing homes may rely on staff members to properly provide these medications. Unfortunately, serious or chronic medication errors in nursing homes may be the result of nursing home neglect or even abuse, and can seriously harm residents.

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Reviewed by Julie Rivers, MBA , Eldercare Advocate & Expert

Administering Medications in the Nursing Home

Nursing home residents and their families expect that long-term care facilities will meet seniors’ needs. This includes making sure that residents get the medications they need.

That said, medication errors in nursing homes occur every year. While not every medication error may be serious, some can have deadly consequences for residents and may be a sign that nursing home neglect is happening.

Elderly Patient Taking Medication

Common types of medication errors include:

  • Giving medications not prescribed to the resident
  • Giving the wrong dose (too much/too little)
  • Giving the wrong medication

Residents who are improperly medicated can suffer from mental and/or physical health problems. Because of this, it is key for residents and their loved ones to make sure that the right medications are given at the right times.

If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries or died due to medication errors in nursing homes, get a free case review. Compensation may be available.

Take Legal Action

Speak with a trusted nursing home abuse lawyer today.

Get a Free Case Review

Medication Standards in Nursing Homes

All nursing homes are expected to provide high-quality care to the residents, including properly giving medications when needed.

Nursing homes should have medication safety standards outlined in the procedures used to run the facility and train staff.

Using these standards and rules, nursing homes should:

  • Avoid prescribing new medications without telling a resident’s family
  • Follow all error reporting guidelines as noted
  • Keep track of each patient’s medications
  • Properly give medications to residents
  • Put patient safety first and get help if side effects appear
  • Understand the patient’s medical history

While it is not possible to fully prevent medication mistakes, these standards mean that nursing homes must do everything they can to keep residents healthy and safe.

Sadly, not all nursing homes will make the effort to provide the best care possible.

Did You Know?
According to a recent report from the medical journal Health Affairs, there is a higher prevalence of medication errors in nursing homes with one-star ratings than five-star facilities.

That said, nursing facilities that fail to prevent serious medication errors may face legal consequences.

What Causes Medication Errors in Nursing Homes?

Although there are many contributing factors that cause medication errors, carelessness of nursing home staff is the most notable.

Causes of medication errors include:

  • Carelessness of staff members
  • Misreading medication orders or labels
  • Not following up with pharmacists or doctors
  • Poor staff training
  • Understaffing
  • Stress on staff
  • Other staffing issues

The examples above are only a few of many problems that can lead to medication errors. Because of this, it’s important to keep a close watch on your loved one and make sure nursing home staff members are properly caring for them.

Call (800) 896-7040 if you think medication errors in a nursing home harmed your loved one. Compensation may be available.

Examples of Nursing Home Medication Errors

Examples of medication errors in nursing homes include:

  • Failing to properly prepare medications
  • Failing to see if IVs are working properly
  • Giving medications without reviewing the side effects
  • Giving a patient new medications without telling family members
  • Giving the wrong dosage
  • Having residents swallow medications meant to dissolve under the tongue (sublingual medications)
  • Mixing up a patient’s medications
  • Not following feeding tube (enteral) nutrition formulas
  • Not giving medications on time
  • Not properly providing antibiotics for bedsores
  • Not monitoring residents to make sure they take medications correctly
  • Not providing liquids or food with medications
  • Slicing or cutting a pill that shouldn’t be split

Medication errors can put a resident at risk of serious complications. For example, residents who are overmedicated might experience severe side effects. If the side effects include dizziness, residents could fall more frequently and suffer from bruises, broken bones, head trauma, or even death.

Unfortunately, several common medications can lead to very dangerous situations, especially when incorrectly administered. For example, antipsychotic drugs used to treat dementia can put older adults at risk of stroke and death. Making an error with these medications can be extremely harmful to the resident.

Medication Errors and Nursing Home Negligence

An older person holds hands with a younger person

Serious or deadly medication errors in nursing homes may be the result of medical malpractice from on-staff caregivers. Errors that stem from nursing home neglect can physically and emotionally devastate a resident and their family members.

In a recent case, a nursing home resident fell into a medically induced coma for three days after taking medication meant for her roommate. Nursing home staff had mixed up the roommates’ medications, and an investigator later proved that nursing home neglect occurred.

Medication errors may be considered nursing home abuse. Staff may give residents medications without their consent or telling loved ones, which can have dangerous outcomes.

Giving improper medications can worsen the medical conditions a resident already has or cause new side effects to appear.

Get a free case review if you or a loved one was harmed from a medication error in a nursing home. Financial compensation may be available.

Take Legal Action

Speak with a trusted nursing home abuse lawyer today.

Get a Free Case Review

Reporting Medication Errors in Nursing Homes

Nursing home medication errors can be dangerous and even life-threatening. It’s important to report medication errors in nursing homes as soon as possible.

You can report medications errors in nursing homes to:

  • 911: Call 911 if your loved one is suffering from a life-threatening medical emergency
  • A resident’s doctor or medical team: Make sure a resident’s primary care provider is informed if medication errors may have occurred
  • Nursing home ombudsmen: Ombudsmen are advocates for nursing home residents and their families who are trained to resolve concerns about care quality
  • Nursing home abuse law firms: Skilled attorneys can help you and your family pursue compensation if medication errors caused serious injuries or death

Reporting a medication error is key for several reasons. First, your loved one can get medical attention. It may also allow you to hold the nursing facility accountable for the harm done. Finally, you can pursue financial aid by reporting medication errors to legal counsel.

Legal Help for Nursing Home Medication Errors

Medication errors in nursing homes can cause older people you love to suffer from serious injuries or long-term side effects. They can even lead to wrongful death in some cases.

If you believe that nursing home medication errors harmed your loved one, seek out legal help. Skilled nursing home abuse lawyers can help you build a case against a long-term care facility and pursue compensation.

The money you receive from a nursing home abuse lawsuit can be used to cover medical expenses, funeral costs, and other associated bills.

Lawsuits are being filed for nursing home medication errors and other forms of abuse every day. Get started with a free case review.

FAQs on Nursing Home Medication Errors

What are the most common medication errors in nursing homes?

Common medication errors typically relate to how medicines are prescribed, given, and distributed, according to the medical journal BMC nursing.

Check in with nursing home residents you love regularly to reduce the risks of medication errors. Regular visits can allow you to catch problems before they are severe.

How can nursing homes prevent medication errors?

Nursing homes can prevent errors by making sure all staff members are properly trained to give medications to residents. Staff should also closely follow all medication administration guidelines.

Failure to do any of these could increase the chances that an older adult will suffer from a medication error.

What can I do if a loved one has suffered a medication error in a nursing home?

If an older adult you love has suffered from a medication error, make sure they quickly get medical attention. Medication errors in nursing homes can quickly turn deadly if left unchecked. Always call 911 in the event of an emergency.

You might also want to connect with elder abuse advocates, such as an ombudsman or a nursing home lawyer. These advocates can connect you with resources needed to start healing.

You can work with elder abuse attorneys right now — start the process with a free case review.

You deserve justice. Get a free legal case review now.

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Reviewed by:
Julie Rivers, MBA
Fact Checked

Julie Rivers is an eldercare advocate with over 15 years of dedicated service to victims of nursing home abuse and neglect. Her journey in this field became deeply personal when she assumed the role of an unpaid caregiver during her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

ReferencesView References
  1. Bengtsson, M., & Ekedahl, A. (2021, April 29). Errors linked to medication management in nursing homes: An interview study. Retrieved November 01, 2021, from

  2. Brauner, D., JM, C., LL, L., KG, S., WB, R., S, S., . . . A, W. (2018, November 01). Does nursing home compare reflect patient safety in nursing homes?: Health Affairs Journal. Retrieved November 01, 2021, from

  3. Groot Kormelinck, C., Van Teunenbroek, C., Kollen, B., Reitsma, M., Gerritsen, D., Smalbrugge, M., & Zuidema, S. (2019, October 12). Reducing inappropriate psychotropic drug use in Nursing Home residents with dementia: Protocol for participatory action research in a stepped-wedge cluster randomized trial. Retrieved November 01, 2021, from

  4. Human Rights Watch, & Washington Post. (2020, October 28). Why are nursing homes drugging dementia patients without their consent? Retrieved November 01, 2021, from