Nursing Home Lawyer PA

Nursing Home Choking Death

Frail and elderly residents are at risk of a nursing home choking death when staff do not provide the correct diet and supervise dining. For many residents, weak muscles, poor dentation, and swallowing issues make choking a serious danger. They rely on staff assistance to help serve the correct medically appropriate diet. Facilities who fail to serve the right type of food served properly may be held responsible if a nursing home choking death occurs.

Residents at risk for choking

Choking was the 4th leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in 2017, according to the National Safety Council. Specifically, elderly people over age of 74 made up 56% of the total choking deaths. Older adults are higher at risk for choking for several reasons, including dentation and swallowing issues.

Residents in our nation’s nursing homes need supportive services from trained staff. Many residents suffer from a difficulty in swallowing known as dysphagia. A resident with dysphagia needs additional time to move liquid or food from their mouth to their stomach. The disorder can actually cause the resident pain. In some situations, a resident with dysphagia cannot swallow at all. According to the Mayo Clinic, some symptoms of dysphagia include:

  • Pain while swallowing
  • Inability to swallow
  • The feeling that food is stuck in the throat or chest
  • Drooling
  • Hoarseness
  • Regurgitation
  • Frequent heartburn
  • Coughing or gagging while swallowing

Many residents have disorders that increase their risk for dysphagia. Residents who have Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, suffered a stroke, or had radiation treatment for cancer may be at higher risk for swallowing difficulties that result in a nursing home choking death. Choking can happen suddenly, and if oxygen is not restored within a few minutes, permanent damage and death can occur.

What is aspiration pneumonia?

Aspiration pneumonia occurs when food, liquids, vomit, or saliva enters the airway to the lungs instead of the esophagus to go to the stomach. This leads to inflammation or infection of the lungs or airway. Older adults who suffer aspiration pneumonia may require antibiotics. Some residents require hospitalization and may even need a ventilator to support their breathing. Some residents are not able to overcome this infection and do not recover.

Preventing Choking Death in nursing homes

Nursing homes are responsible to know each resident’s medical conditions. The physician will prescribe a diet that is safest for the resident to consume when they arrive at the nursing home. The doctor might even order diagnostic testing (such as a barium swallow study) or an evaluation by speech therapy to better understand the resident’s abilities to chew and swallow. The resident’s diet may change over time as the resident’s health improves or declines. It’s important that all staff members know the resident’s diet, so that the proper type of food can be provided. In many cases, staff members such as dietary servers, activity aides, nurses, or nursing assistants have provided a resident with a food type that is outside of their diet parameters. This puts the older adult at a greater risk of a nursing home choking death.

Staff who help to feed residents with swallowing disorders should be specially trained to feed these high-risk individuals. In addition, resident at risk for choking should be monitored closely by qualified staff members while eating. If choking occurs, nursing homes must have staff members on-site who are trained in the Heimlich maneuver and CPR.

Contact Us

If your loved one suffered an untimely nursing home choking death that could have been prevented, contact our attorneys. We are experts in nursing home regulations and can help your family get the justice they deserve for the death of your loved one. No family should have to suffer the loved one due to a preventable choking death. We will fight for you and your loved one to hold the nursing home responsible and seek the compensation you deserve.