You are out of…

In more than 18 years living in nursing homes, periodically the facility ran out of one of my medications. A nurse, for instance, would tell me, "You are out of Valium." Because this facility’s problem could become a problem for me, I decided to ask my nurses whether my meds were being reordered. Most nurses assured me they reordered medicines promptly. But when I asked others, they bristled at giving me an answer.

When they ran out of a controlled drug, which could cause withdrawal if I missed a dose, my nurse usually got permission to have the pharmacy drop-ship it, and I would have it for the next dose.

Other drugs were not usually drop-shipped. Then I had to wait 24 to 48 hours until the next shipment, delaying my next dose. I wondered why one of the nursing supervisors did not remedy the situation so that the facility would not have to pay extra for meds to be drop-shipped.

It was my prescription laxative that ran out most often. I knew the bottle lasted seven days. It was a thick, sticky liquid, which I had seen nurses spill accidentally. On other occasions, my dose was poured at the wrong time and the nurses threw it out. I know these incidents caused the med to run out sooner than the scheduled seven days.

When the facility ran out of that prescription laxative, I was told the med could not be ordered until it was completely gone. I wondered if that meant it was sent on the pharmacy’s schedule.

Whenever the facility changed pharmacies, they did not run out of meds for several months. But eventually, it would start again. I wondered whether there was a financial reason why the facility ran out of meds.

I talked about it with the aides at a former facility. They told me several residents complained that the facility ran out of their meds near staff paydays. They joked that the facility could not afford to make payroll and reorder meds. We laughed about it, but I wondered.

I thought if my spilled and discarded doses were explained to the pharmacy, they would send more to replace the shortage. I felt that if the pharmacy would not send it, then the facility should be responsible to purchase more, because waste is a cost of doing business.

I may never know why meds run out.

Topics: Clinical