Older Patients with Parkinson’s Face Hospital Dangers

A recent article in the New York Times discussed certain dangers that can await Parkinson’s patients when they’re admitted to hospitals. These patients require specific medications at certain times, and general hospital staff members aren’t educated about the needs that these patients have. As a result, Parkinson’s patients can be the victims of serious medication errors, and they can undergo severe side effects from seemingly routine hospital visits. abuse.jpg

If an elderly parent or loved one has been mistreated while in the hospital, an experienced elder justice advocate can discuss the details of your case with you today.

Dangerous Consequences of Medication Errors

The New York Times provided an example of a specific Parkinson’s patient whose medication needs weren’t fulfilled while in the hospital for what was supposed to be “a short stay.” Roger Anderson, who has Parkinson’s, was supposed to have surgery “to relieve a painfully compressed spinal disk.” Anderson and his wife assumed the staff at the hospital in Portland, Oregon would know how to care for him.

Because he has Parkinson’s, Anderson must take certain medications “at precise intervals to replace the brain chemical dopamine, which is diminished by the disease.” His wife emphasized that there isn’t “much of a window” in administering these medications. She explained that, “if you have to wait an hour, you have tremendous problems.” When Parkinson’s patients don’t receive these drugs, they can “freeze” or be unable to move. In addition, they may develop “uncontrolled movements called dyskinesia,” and they can be more “prone to falls.”

However, the Portland hospital staff didn’t understand the severity of the situation, and the hospital rules prevented Anderson’s wife from administering these medications to her husband. As a result, serious medication errors occurred. With his disrupted medication schedule, combined with the stress of surgery, anesthesia, and a wound that became infected after surgery, Anderson was forced to stay in healthcare facilities for nearly three months. In fact, he developed delirium, had a fall, and ultimately lost 60 pounds. He managed to recover and return home, but his disease has since progressed, according to his wife. Unfortunately, Anderson’s experience seems to be the norm.

Are All Parkinson’s Patients At Risk During Routine Hospital Visits?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), older people with Parkinson’s tend to be hospitalized more frequently than other people their age, and often their hospital stays last longer, too. While all elder persons are going to face more dangers during routine hospital stays, neurologists believe that people with Parkinson’s tend to have “particularly hazardous” experiences in hospitals. Dr. Michael Okun, a neurologist at the University of Florida and the national medical director for the National Parkinson Foundation, explained that Parkinson’s is typically a disease that affects older adults, and they’re at greater risk for medication errors “even in good hospitals.”

Primarily, Okun emphasized that Parkinson’s patients “aren’t getting their meds on time, and they’re not getting the right meds.” And what’s worse is that many commonly prescribed drugs during routine hospital stays are actually dopamine blockers. For older patients with Parkinson’s, these drugs can have dangerous interactions and can cause severe results. The New York Times emphasized that “not everyone is as lucky as Roger Anderson.”

This is a serious issue facing older adults. There are some steps you can take to minimize the danger of hospital stays, including getting ahold of a free “Aware in Care” kit that includes a hospital bracelet to identify its wearer as a patient with Parkinson’s. However, many elderly people slip through the system. If an elderly parent or loved one has experienced medication errors while in the hospital, they could be entitled to compensation. Contact an experienced elder law attorney today to discuss your concerns.

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