A daughter’s alleged discovery of 1,000 pills in her deceased mother’s nursing home room has raised questions, generated a complaint to state authorities and likely will increase pressure on various long-term care providers over medication management practices.
Susan Forbes said she knew months ago her mother was stashing pills, but she thought the habit had ended after she notified staff at the nursing home where the elderly woman lived.
After the resident’s death in June, Forbes claimed she found nearly 1,000 pills her mother had stuffed into tissues, socks and a jewelry box rather than taking them as prescribed.
The daughter has filed a complaint with Massachusetts officials, alleging negligence by the nursing staff at Beaumont Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Center at Westborough.
A spokeswoman for Beaumont said in an email to McKnight’s on Tuesday that the facility requires licensed nurses to be present when medication is taken and that no medication is ever left at the bedside for the patient to self-administer.
“These situations are difficult for us because our commitment to patient privacy and required compliance with HIPAA regulations prevents us from sharing more detailed information around the specifics of patient care,” spokeswoman Corin Cook said. “This care includes the types of medications being administered, the circumstances under which they were administered, conversations with patient families and steps to assure compliance. However, we can assure you that we take every patient care issue seriously and work diligently to assure our staff is supported in delivering outstanding care and addressing any concerns in a timely manner.”
Marybeth McCabe, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Health, told “The (Worcester) Telegram” her agency is looking into Forbes’ complaint, which was referred there by the state Attorney General’s office. A site visit was scheduled.
But McCabe also noted there are “no specific requirements in the nursing scope of practice regulations that a nurse must watch a resident” take medication.
Forbes wants to see that change.
“When you’re dealing with nursing home patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s, wouldn’t you think it is common sense to stand there and take a minute and talk to that patient to make sure the medication went down?” she asked. “You can’t leave medicine with patients in a cup without knowing they take it. She was taking five or six different medicines, including heart medicine, antidepressants and blood thinners.”
Her mother had dementia and moved to Beaumont three years ago after a series of minor strokes, she told the “Telegram.”
Forbes said most of the pills she found still had pharmaceutical markings on them, proof, she believes, that her mother never put them in her mouth.
Beaumont, one of eight locations owned by SalmonHealth, said it has multiple processes to ensure medication administration protocols are followed, including spot checks and yearly documentation and reviews.
“If we have any reason to believe, via a family member or other source, that a patient may not be taking their required medications, we immediately inform all nurses assigned to that patient and provide them with guidance on how to assure continued compliance,” Cook’s statement said.
During the facility’s most recent health inspection reported on Nursing Home Compare, dated June 2018, surveyors found a minimal pharmacy service deficiency related to labeling or storage but no quality of care deficiencies.