Background: In Japan, staff who are not doctors or nurses can assist the elderly in residential care facilities to take their pre-packaged medicines. Therefore, there is a potential risk of incidents specific to staffs. The aim of this study was to clarify the causes of incidents related to medication assistance by staff in residential care facilities. Method: Semi-structured interviews with staff involved in medication incidents in long-term care facilities, focusing on how and why each incident happened, were conducted. The interview covered basic information about the subject and resident, the circumstances under which the incident had occurred, contributing factors, and countermeasures put in place. Verbatim transcripts of the interviews were prepared. Based on thematic analysis, codes and themes were created. Results: Twelve subjects participated in this study. All subjects were staffs (not doctors or nurses) in long-term care facilities. All incidents covered in this study were incidents in which the wrong resident was given the medication. The incidents arose because of “not following procedures”, such as lack of “self-check of residents’ faces/residents’ names/residents’ medicine envelopes” or “double-check with other staff” or “using a device for medication intake”. Contributory factors were grouped into four categories: individual resident factor items such as “decreased ability to understand their medication” or “refusal to take medicines”, individual staff factor items such as “lack of knowledge related to medication” or “mental burden” or “experience in medication assistance”, team factor items such as “failure to communicate with other staff”, work environment factor items such as “presence of other residents” or “other work besides medication assistance” or “not enough time” or “little understanding of fostering a safety culture at the facility”. Conclusion: This study identified four categories of contributory factors that may lead to incidents during medication assistance by caregivers for residents of care homes. These findings should be helpful for risk management in residential care facilities where staff usually provide medication assistance. Separation of meal times and medication assistance, and professional review to stagger the timing of administration of residents’ medication may be effective in reducing incidents.
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