This simultaneous use of multiple drugs by a single patient to treat either one or various conditions is called polypharmacy.
The medical industry has yet to define precisely how many medications constitutes an instance of polypharmacy. Commonly, the number used to describe this practice is four or more medications.
Polypharmacy occurs commonly in nursing homes, sometimes healthily. But polypharmacy can quickly be done incorrectly, and the consequences for elderly nursing home residents can be devastating.
If your loved one suffered from the effects of negligent polypharmacy in Phoenix, AZ at his/her nursing home, you may be eligible to receive compensation. Call Zanes Law at 602-999-9999. Our polypharmacy lawyers in Phoenix will do everything from A to Z to see that you recover all damages related to this negligent practice.
The Good and the Bad of Polypharmacy
Often, the elderly residents at a nursing home suffer from conditions that require the residents to take medication—sometimes even several medications. When prescribed and administered properly, this type of polypharmacy is fine, even essential.
Complications can arise, however, when multiple medications as the number of drugs increases, or when the medications are administered in unhealthy combinations. In this sense, polypharmacy presents a problem in any patient. With the elderly, the risks are exacerbated by the fact that this age group tends to suffer from a higher number of health conditions, thereby increasing the potential for adverse effects.
Potential Risks of Polypharmacy in Nursing Homes
- Increased chance of residents falling
- Changes in seniors’ metabolism, which make drugs harder to process and interactions harder to predict
- Greater likelihood that residents will make an error in taking their meds
- Potential to introduce inappropriate or unnecessary medications
- Increased chances that drugs will interact poorly, with adverse side effects
- Prescription cascade effect that occurs when a combination of meds creates a new problem for the resident, which generates administration of additional drugs
Polypharmacy in Today’s Nursing Homes
Research published in the American Journal of Geriatric Pharmacotherapy revealed a 40 percent incidence of polypharmacy among nursing home residents. For the purpose of this study, polypharmacy was defined as the concurrent use of nine or more medications.
According to this 2004 study, the drugs most frequently reported for nursing home residents receiving polypharmacy were as follows:
- Gastrointestinal agents (laxatives, 47.5%; agents for acid/peptic disorders, 43.3%)
- Drugs affecting the central nervous system (antidepressants, 46.3%; antipsychotics or antimanics, 25.9%)
- Pain relievers (nonnarcotic analgesics, 43.6%; antipyretics, 41.2%; antiarthritics, 31.2%)
Signs That Your Loved One is Suffering the Effects of Polypharmacy
When multiple, conflicting medications are administered to nursing home residents, they can suffer serious complications, many of which are life-threatening.
The following list represents the wide range of potential polypharmacy effects—symptoms that something has gone wrong at your loved one’s nursing home:
- Allergic reactions
- Changes in behavior
- Loss of weight
- Muscle pain
- Cardiac arrest
- Brain injuries/neurological damage
- Organ failure
- Sensory damage
Signs of Polypharmacy to Look for Within the Nursing Home
If your loved one has experienced some of the above symptoms, but you are not sure that polypharmacy caused them, consider signs within the nursing home that this practice is occurring.
Some possible red flags include:
- Sudden changes in new meds or dosages
- New diagnoses
- New prescriptions
- Swift, severe reactions to meds
- Drugs administered by RNs
- Drugs administered by non-medical, unsupervised staff
- Observations of inferior communications among staff
- Conflicts on prescription labels
Arizona Nursing Home Law
Arizona’s laws on nursing homes require that nursing home managers have procedures in place for preventing, responding to, and reporting medication mistakes as well as unexpected reactions to drugs.
The law further requires that a medical practitioner reviews each nursing home resident’s medication regimen and method of administration. The facility’s manager should also ensure that medication is administered.
- Under the direction of a medical practitioner
- In a manner compliant with the medication order
- With complete documentation in the resident’s medical record
When an Arizona nursing home neglects to uphold the above safety measures, as mandated by law, you can hold the facility and/or its staff liable for the damages that result. Zanes Law will represent you in this legal action, and a polypharmacy lawyer in Phoenix, AZ will do so aggressively to get the results you deserve.
Other Ways in Which a Nursing Home Can be Negligent with Polypharmacy
When we admit our loved ones into a nursing home, we do so with the expectation that the staff is trained, capable, and willing to do what is required to keep their residents safe.
We expect the following:
- The staff keeps residents on schedule with their medications
- The staff does not mix up medications
- The staff has a firm grasp of the drugs and their effects
- The staff can clearly distinguish the effects of a medication from some other condition
A failure to uphold these expectations constitutes negligence, as the nursing home has breached a duty of care to its residents. In these cases, the nursing home staff may exhibit their negligence by:
- Giving residents the wrong medication
- Not giving residents their medication
Giving residents their medication at the wrong time
- Incorrectly assessing the resident’s condition—or not doing it at all
- Not recording prescriptions on the resident’s medication record
- Not reviewing the resident’s medication record before issuing a new prescription
- Not assessing the resident for signs or symptoms of error in medication
When residents suffer some harm as a result of this breach of duty, the staff and/or the nursing home can be held liable for this suffering.
The nursing home, in particular, is responsible for the proper training of staff, a lack of which can result in mistakes being made. Errors also occur when a facility is understaffed or when staff is not supervised—both of which constitute negligence on the part of the nursing home.
Zanes Law Will Fight for Your Loved One
At Zanes Law, our team holds nursing home abuse in great disdain. A polypharmacy lawyer in Phoenix, AZ will aggressively fight for the rights of your loved one, and for your right to be compensated for the nursing home’s negligence in its use of polypharmacy.
Our firm works on a contingency basis, so we will not charge you unless and until you are compensated. Call Zanes Law today for a free, no-obligation case review: 602-999-9999.