Nursing home choking


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Thousands of people die from choking every year. Sadly, more than half of all choking deaths are people over the age of 74. Many nursing home patients have difficulty swallowing food or chewing. Because of this, choking is a risk for many elderly patients. Choking can lead to a loss of oxygen to the brain. This loss of oxygen can result in serious brain damage or even death. Long-term care facilities and nursing homes have a responsibility to monitor or supervise the food and medication intake of its patients. Nursing home choking may look like an accident, but in many cases, they are a direct result of poor supervision. If you believe your loved one suffered from nursing home abuse or neglect, contact a Carlson Law Firm nursing home choking lawyer to discuss your case.

In addition to more than 40 years representing clients, we have one of the leading nursing home attorneys in the country, Ernest Tosh, ready to fight for you. Tosh takes fighting for the rights of our elderly citizens seriously. So much so, that he only takes on nursing home cases. Tosh, along with The Carlson Law Firm’s investigators and nurses are the team you want on your side. We can help you and your loved one get the justice for nursing home choking that you so rightly deserve.

What happens when a nursing home patient chokes

Nursing home residents often have medical problems or take medications that make it difficult to properly chew or swallow food. Due to this, many are at high risk for choking. As mentioned above, choking can lead to serious brain damage and possibly even death. That is why it is so important for nursing homes to enforce dietary restrictions and monitor residents with choking risks.

Staff should always practice basic choking precautions, such as:

  • Encouraging patients to sit upright when they eat
  • Always having a beverage within reach
  • Not rushing patients to finish their food
  • Warning patients about unseen skin or bones
  • Training staff how to dislodge food using methods like the Heimlich maneuver

These are basic tools that every nursing home in the country should employ. If your loved is living with a choking injury or died from choking, we can help. We are available 24/7 to set up a free consultation with our expert nursing home choking lawyer, Ernest Tosh.

Why Choking Occurs in Elderly Nursing Home Residents

As people age, they begin producing less saliva. This leads to difficulties in chewing and swallowing food. However, reasons that many elderly and disabled patients have problems swallowing is varied. There are 50 pairs of muscles and nerves involved in swallowing food. Additionally, there are many other conditions that may influence whether a patient is able to swallow or not. Some of the most common disorders include:

Neurological disorders – Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis may all influence the ability to swallow.

Neurological damage – If a person has suffered spinal or brain injuries or has suffered a stroke, it may affect his or her ability to swallow.

Cancer – There are types of cancer that may affect the patient’s ability to swallow. The radiation treatment may also play a role here.

Alzheimer’s disease – Alzheimer’s patients in the later stages of the disease may find it difficult to swallow and eat.

Aging – Considering it takes 50 pairs of muscles and nerves to swallow, it is not surprising that wear and tear on the throat muscles can make it difficult to swallow for older patients.

Understaffing Effects on Residents

More than 90 percent of nursing homes are understaffed. In fact, studies show that residents in understaffed facilities are at a higher risk for malnutrition, weight loss, bedsores, dehydration, infections, pneumonia and choking. This leads to a less attentive staff for residents with dysphagia, difficulty swallowing. Residents with this condition require more attention when they’re eating.

Unfortunately, understaffing is the main underlying causes of elder neglect. It is a national issue in nursing homes. However, it is no excuse for residents to suffer choking injuries. Nearly half of nurses report missing changes in a patient’s condition because their workloads are excessive. Consequently, nurses in understaffed facilities don’t have time to pay attention to detail which can lead to mistakes, injuries and deaths. If each patient is able to get adequate attention then nursing home mistakes and neglect won’t happen.

Often, staff in nursing home facilities are exhausted after working long hours. Nurses and staff members are pushed to work quickly and for as long as possible.  When the staff is overworked and stressed it can lead to them taking their frustrations out on residents.

If you notice that your elderly loved one is suffering because of understaffing, you can take action. You can hold the nursing home responsible for the abuses and neglect that occurs as a result of understaffing. Contact The Carlson Law Firm to speak with a nursing home choking lawyer about your loved one’s condition.

Choking Injuries

People tend to focus on the choking risks young children face. But they fail to realize the elder are also at risk. The elderly account for more than half of all choking deaths reported each year.

Choking deprives oxygen to the brain and causes brain damage—possibly even death. Nursing homes should be held accountable for their negligence in these cases. If the choking occurred because the patient was fed the wrong food or was not properly monitored, it is the fault of the nursing home, and your loved one may have a nursing home abuse lawsuit.

Signs of Choking

Complications from choking can develop in as a little as four minutes. The signs of choking are as follows:

  • Holding the neck with one or both hands
  • Gasping
  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Bluish lips or skin
  • Wheezing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Squeaky sounds when trying to breathe
  • Additional symptoms can appear as well

In some instances, a resident can develop pneumonia. This occurs when the small particles containing bacteria remain in the respiratory tract or lungs. If the skin begins to change color, seek medical treatment immediately. The standard rescue procedure is the Heimlich maneuver. If your loved one suffered from nursing home choking and the proper treatment was not administered, contact us to speak with a qualified nursing home choking lawyer.

Choking Prevention

It is standard for those patients who have trouble swallowing in a nursing home setting to be examined by a physician in order to determine the severity of the problem. From there the physician can make recommendations on what the patient should and should not eat and in which forms. It is important that this advice is placed on the nursing home patient’s chart; these special needs need to be known to all caregivers who interact with the patient. When not monitored closely or if the patient receives medication or food that goes against what the physician recommended, it may lead to choking and asphyxiation.

There are several choking hazards that long-term care facilities and nursing homes should be aware of. Common food choking hazards include:

  • Water. Believe it or not, the fluid is so thin that elderly people can choke on it.
  • Hot dogs. If you must serve them, remove the peel.
  • Steak or other big pieces of meat.
  • Chicken with bones
  • Popcorn
  • Pizza. For the elderly, cold pizza may be difficult to chew.
  • Hard candy.
  • Bread, especially white bread. When the elderly drink water, bread expands and can become like a sponge and block the airway.
  • Cake and milk.
  • Cracker, rice cakes or other dry foods
  • White bread and peanut butter.
  • Large chunks of fruit, such as pineapple and apples.

In the event that these foods are given to a nursing home resident, the staff has a responsibility to closely monitor patients food intake. Additionally, nursing home residents should never eat while lying down. If negligence led to your loved one’s choking injuries, contact The Carlson Law Firm to speak with a qualified nursing home choking lawyer.

How The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

The Carlson Law Firm works hard to protect the most vulnerable populations across all age groups. That said, nursing home choking is preventable. By taking the step to hold nursing homes accountable for the injury your loved one suffered will make nursing homes better for future residents. It is important to realize that most choking injuries are a direct result of negligence. But you have options to hold negligent nursing homes accountable. Our firm employs nursing home choking attorneys who are 100 percent dedicated to fighting for the rights of nursing home patients. A nursing home choking lawyer from The Carlson Law Firm will invest the time, legal expertise and resources to recover damages.  

If you believe that a loved one may be the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse and, you should take action quickly and contact us immediately to set up a free consultation. We have a nursing home choking lawyer ready to discuss your case. We are available to speak with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.