RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - We dug into state and federal records and unfortunately found that medication errors at nursing homes are quite common - even here in Virginia.
Midlothian's Tanya Karney-Brown never thought she'd have to live with something like this. "It was very shocking and the trust is broken. And he dies," said Karney-Brown.
Her older brother, Joseph Karney, was only in his 60s when he needed full time care after a stroke. They placed him at the Renaissance Park South Nursing home in Chicago.
"We put him there. We checked it out, everything was fine. We felt that would be the perfect place," said Karney-Brown.
In 2007, he was diagnosed with cancer. A doctor prescribed the medication Gleevec. He was on it for a year and he was responding to the treatment. Karney Brown says his tumor was shrinking, "He was doing well. He was gaining weight. He was doing fantastic."
A year later, his health started to nose dive. The family started asking questions and soon discovered the nursing home stopped taking Joseph to his doctor appointments. His prescription for Gleevec ran out. According to court documents, for over a year, "the nursing home falsely charted that they were giving the medication" to Joseph.
"They lied to me. They lied to my face. They know me by my first name. They know who I am, I'm visiting him constantly. I had no idea that that was happening."
In a statement, Renaissance Park South spokesperson said: "We regret that the incident occurred and used it as an opportunity to better ourselves and the care we provide."
The company now performs audits to make sure medications are being dispensed. According to court documents, the Karney family sued and eventually settled with the nursing home for just under a million dollars. The family moved to the Richmond area for a fresh start.
There are nearly 7,000 beds at nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the greater Richmond area, which includes Richmond, Henrico, Hanover, Chesterfield, Dinwiddie, Petersburg, Colonial Heights and Prince George.
We tracked the inspections reports for the last year at every facility in the area and discovered that 63%, more than half of all the nursing homes in greater Richmond, were cited by inspectors for some sort of violation that could lead to a medication mistake.
The reports are detailed, "Resident 1 missed five doses of seizure medication".
Another inspection report said,"medication did not have proper labeling," We found patient's medication even being "withheld without a valid physician's order" in another inspection.
"Ask for inspection reports, ask to see activities, a list of activities, ask to see menus, ask for references. Don't be afraid to ask questions that concern you," said Jay White. He's with VCU. He studies aging and even helps to train hundreds of health care professionals each year who work in assisted living facilities. He says ask to see your loved one's care plans.
"In those care plans you'll find - or you should find - detailed information about any kind of medication, new medication management and it's very important to monitor this." He says to engage your loved one early in the process and do your research. Much of which can be done online. Facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid are listed on the federal government's nursing home compare site. You can type in Richmond and instantly find reports on all the nursing homes in the area.
"If something feels off, I think you should ask the question and find out right away. Don't just take yes for an answer or no for an answer," said Tayna Karney-Brown. She believes, if her brother got his medication, he would still be here.
"A lot of people don't ask that question. What happened. And I think people need to start asking questions," said Karney Brown.
Assisted living facilities are regulated separately by the Virginia Department of Social Services. Here are links to the two sites you can search for inspection reports:
Medicare site: http://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html
Here is the full statement from the nursing home:
The Renaissance Park South is aware of the unfortunate incident that occurred in 2008 as a result of a medication error. The facility and resident's family amicably resolved all claims against the facility. We regret that the incident occurred and used it as an opportunity to better ourselves and the care we provide. Since this event 5 years ago, we have partnered with a national pharmaceutical provider to ensure proper distribution of medication to each resident we serve. In addition to our pharmacy's checks and balances, we perform regular audits to ensure medications are being dispensed properly and timely. The Renaissance Park South now utilizes a state-of-the-art electronic medical record system which immediately alerts us to prevent medication administration errors. Our top priority is the health and safety of our residents and we take every precaution to ensure that highest level of care. -- Rolando Carter, Administrator