Medication errors are common in assisted living facilities, or ALF, and research has shown that many of these errors happen during medication administration. Senior medication administration errors by non-nursing staff are a problem and can lead to further health issues with patients. In fact, according to a study conducted by the Medication Error Quality Initiative out of North Carolina, repeated elder medication errors occur more than 37 percent and may end up causing the most harm against patients in ALF settings.
Even though medication administration regulations at assisted living facilities vary from state to state, it’s still important to know what the risks are and how to prevent them.
What Are Some Common Reasons for Medication Errors?
The key to preventing senior medication administration errors is education. Through proper education and hands-on training, all healthcare professionals can practice safe medication administration by being aware of practices that lead to common yet avoidable medication errors.
Some common reasons for medication errors include:
- Poor or loss of communication
- Illegible handwriting
- Dose miscalculations
- Confusing drugs that sound or look alike
- Unclear orders
- Incorrect storage
How to Prevent ALF Medication Administration Errors
It’s important for all nurses, non-nursing staff, and ALF supervisors and administration to become familiar with various strategies to prevent or reduce the chance of medication administration errors at ALFs. Here are some strategies that can help achieve this:
- Follow Proper Medication Reconciliation Procedures: ALFs must have systems in place for medication reconciliation or from one unit to the next. Those working at ALFs should review and verify each medication for the correct patient, correct medication, route, dosage, and time against the transfer orders or medications listed on the transfer documents; nurses must compare this to the medication administration record. Often not all elements of a medication record are available for easy verification, but it is of great importance to verify with every possible source to prevent potential administration errors related to improper reconciliation.
- Check, Double Check, and Then Triple Check Procedures: This is a process in which another nurse or non-nursing staff member on the same shift or an incoming shift reviews all new orders to ensure each ALF patient’s medicine is noted and transcribed correctly. Some ALFs have a chart flag process in place to highlight charts with new medication orders that require order verification.
- Document Everything: To help prevent medication administration errors, ALF staff can ensure that all documentation is correct. This includes proper medication labeling, legible documentation, or correct recording of administered medication. A lack of documentation for any medication results in an error that can be avoided. Reading the prescription label and expiration date of the medication is also another practice that should be employed by ALF staff. A correct medication can have an incorrect label or vice versa.
- Ensure Proper Storage of Medications: Refrigerated medications must be stored properly to maintain efficacy, and medications that should be kept at room temperature should be stored accordingly. Most medications require refrigeration, and if there is a multidose vial for administration it must be labeled to ensure it is not used beyond its expiration date.
About Highland Risk
At Highland Risk, we use our expertise and experience to provide insurance information and programs to those who serve long-term care and senior living facilities. Since 2007, we’ve been offering insurance and risk management plans designed to help our agents give their clients the ability to achieve continued growth while simultaneously protecting against loss, containing costs and increasing profitability. With three offices to serve you in Chicago, Illinois; Phoenix, Arizona; and Burlington, Connecticut, we do everything we can to make your experience with us as professional and transparent as possible. To learn more, contact us at (877) 890-9301.