Nearly 60% of paid home caregivers make medication errors, study finds

One-third of paid caregivers who work for clients who live in their own homes had difficulty reading and understanding health-related information and instructions. Furthermore, 60% of them made medication errors involving their clients, according to Northwestern University researchers, who say the study is the first of its kind.

Investigators at the university recruited 100 paid, non-family caregivers in the Chicago area and evaluated their literacy with health-related tasks and knowledge. While researchers emphasized that the majority of caregivers are good people who are trying to support their families, medication-error levels are a serious cause of concern.

They found that most paid caregivers are women with an average age of 50 years old. Many are foreign born with limited schooling. They are usually paid about $9 an hour, though almost one-third earns less than minimum wage.

“They take on health-related responsibilities, such as giving out medications and accompanying clients to the doctor for appointments,” investigator Dr. Lee Lindquist, M.D., said. “Most physicians and family members do not realize that while the caregiver is nodding and saying ‘yes,’ she might not really understand what is being said.” The study has been published online and will appear in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.