Many of our elderly loved ones in nursing homes experience difficulty swallowing pills and food. To best protect those residents from choking risks, nursing home staff must be present and aware during mealtimes. Unfortunately, not all mealtimes or rounds of medicine receive the attention they require, and our loved ones suffer. If your loved one is injured or dies due to choking, it is important that you take steps to ensure that the choking was not the result of nursing home neglect.
Perhaps the nursing home was understaffed. Perhaps the staff did not receive proper training in identifying the signs of choking or in delivering the Heimlich maneuver. Perhaps the dining room staff failed to make the appropriate type of food based on restrictive diets or to serve the food in a way that eased swallowing.
The fact is choking is a significant concern and nursing homes should have policies in place to prevent incidents of choking and deal with them when they do arise. Whatever the situation, any instance of choking in a nursing home must be investigated as potential nursing home neglect.
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Common Causes of Choking
One of the most common causes of choking is dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing. Dysphagia affects millions of Americans, including more than 14% of individuals over the age of 80. In addition to dysphagia, nursing home residents with any of the following can be prone to choking:
- Objects in breathing tube
- Disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s or Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Incidents such as strokes
- Illnesses such as cancer, particularly head and neck cancer
- Medical conditions such as acid reflux
Patients with any of these conditions may require special diets that specifically exclude known choking hazards.
Choking Leads to Severe Consequences
Once an individual begins choking, that individual experiences oxygen deprivation. This deprivation can lead to permanent brain damage or death. If your loved one has any of the conditions named above, work with his or her care providers to ensure that they are properly supervising mealtimes and the administration of medicine.
Choking and Breathing Tubes
Nursing home staff must give special care to residents who require the use of breathing tubes. These tubes provide residents with the means to breathe each and every day. It is imperative that the staff cleans the tubes and monitors them on an ongoing basis to avoid suffocation. Any misstep in the implementation and general use of these tubes can lead a resident to asphyxiate. Learn more about how to prevent choking because of a clogged breathing tube here.