According to a study by Massachusetts researchers that suggests the problem is far more widespread than previously estimated.
The study found that 73 percent of the most severe injuries -- including internal bleeding and death -- were preventable, along with many of the others.
The most common problems were confusion, oversedation, hallucinations, or bleeding due to prescribing errors or failure to carefully monitor patients for side effects. The researchers found that warfarin, a blood thinner, and antipsychotic drugs caused the most problems.
"This seems to be a major safety issue for some of our most vulnerable patients," said Dr. Jerry Gurwitz, the lead author of the study released today, and a professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
While the medical profession has increasingly focused on reducing medical errors in hospitals, Gurwitz said nursing homes are "at least 10 years behind in making the changes necessary" to address the problem. Many nursing homes cannot afford the expensive computerized medication dispensing and monitoring systems that hospitals are purchasing.
And few nursing homes have found ways to minimize the problems resulting from having many different doctors treating patients -- often by telephone, Gurwitz said. [...]