Nursing Home Nightmares: Under-Medicating Dangers

We often emphasize the need for prudent elder care planning to ensure that your senior loved ones will have access to the best care possible, if necessary. Unfortunately, not all long-term care facilities are of the same quality. The poorest performing homes often make the same caregiving mistakes again and again, causing serious harm.

Nursing Home Medication Errors
For example, many Americans, especially those with loved ones in nursing care facilities, are aware of the dangers of over-medication and what this form of negligence can do to the health of a loved one. But what about cases in which a person is either under-medicated or not given medication at all, and his or her life depends upon that medicine?

That was the case with Joseph, Ms. Tanya Karney-Brown’s brother, and revealed in a story by a journalism investigation team.

Like many nursing care facility residents, Joseph wound up at The Renaissance South nursing care facility after suffering a heart attack and stroke. In 2005, Ms. Karney-Brown took a tour of the facility, thought it looked great, and placed him under their care shortly thereafter.

After he became a resident at the facility, Joseph was diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer and was prescribed a cancer medication called Gleevac. Ms. Karney-Brown said that her brother responded very well to Gleevac. But then things began to go awry. Joseph’s condition not only worsened, but his cancer spread, and he eventually died in 2010. Ms. Karney-Brown and her family obviously had questions as to why this had happened, and they soon discovered that The Renaissance South staff had stopped giving him his Gleevac for an entire year. On top of that, they failed to take him to his oncologist for follow-up visits.

Joseph’s death could have been avoided, and was a result of negligence. As Ms. Karney-Brown lamented to the NBC 5 Investigates team, “[U]nfortunately, he’s not here anymore.”

The family filed a lawsuit against The Renaissance South nursing care facility and settled. Since the settlement, the nursing care facility has taken measures to ensure that this sort of incident does not occur again.

A representative for the nursing care facility named Rolando Carter said in a written statement to NBC 5 Investigates, “We regret that the incident occurred and used it as an opportunity to better ourselves and the care we provide.”

Joseph’s death is a warning of what can happen to someone in a nursing care facility who is not administered life-saving medication for a serious disease such as cancer. As Ms. Karney-Brown contends, if The Renaissance South staff had taken appropriate measures to administer his medication – Gleevac – and also take him to regular check-ups with his oncologist, his untimely death could have been prevented.

Unfortunately, Joseph’s story is not uncommon, and that is why families need to remain vigilant when they place a loved one in a nursing care facility. As Ms. Karney-Brown suggests, make frequent visits and even show up unannounced. If you do discover that your loved one has not been receiving appropriate medication, take immediate action to ensure they are protected. This oftentimes means seeking appropriate legal counsel. When it comes to a loved one’s health, especially when they are in a nursing home, it is crucial that all the necessary steps are taken to protect their rights.

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