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Caregivers can help prevent medical errors

Medical errors do happen, and they can be devastating for both victims and their families. When patients can't speak up for themselves or are unable to keep up with things such as medication and information from day to day, more opportunities for errors may be present. Caregivers and families with elderly loved ones can take some steps to reduce the chance of such errors.

One of the most important steps family members can take to reduce injuries and risks for loved ones is to be an active part of the person's life and care. Visiting frequently, whether the person lives at home or in a care facility, lets family members become aware of issues earlier. In many cases, identifying a medical issue or care problem early means the difference between an uncomfortable moment and a serious injury.

Pay attention to medications and check that your loved one is taking medications appropriately. Even professionals make mistakes, so ask questions when new medications are prescribed to make sure your loved one is getting the right treatment and that new medicine will not interact inappropriately with old ones.

If your elderly loved one must stay in the hospital overnight or for an extended period of time, consider staying with them to manage information and keep an eye on treatment. Because hospital staff can't be with patients 24 hours a day, providing assistance to your loved one might reduce the chance of a fall in the hospital. If you can't stay with the person, then try to be present at times when doctors make rounds so you can hear critical information and ask questions.

Even when both family and medical staff are diligent, medical errors can occur. If your loved one is experiencing injuries or suffering because of medical negligence or mistakes, then they have a right to seek compensation. In cases where the injured party is unable to seek compensation themselves, families may have a right to do so on their behalf.

Source: National Caregivers Library, "Being An Advocate For Your Loved One," accessed July 24, 2015

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