Seniors in nursing homes can suffer from medical conditions that may leave them susceptible to dangerous and potentially fatal choking incidents. Suffering from difficulties with swallowing and breathing, for example, can lead to choking during mealtimes. Choking presents a serious issue, and when caregivers fail to address it promptly, it can lead to brain injuries and sometimes death. Signs of choking which should be acted on immediately include:
- Gagging and coughing
- Clutching the throat
- Hand signals and panic
- Turning blue
Staff in the nursing home needs to have the training and qualification necessary to quickly identify and deal with any choking incidents. If the choking incident remains mild, with the airway only partially blocked, simply encouraging a resident to cough and delivering some light blows to the back can help to clear the blockage.
The Heimlich Maneuver
If the choking incident gets severe, back blows together with abdominal thrusts—also known as the Heimlich maneuver— can help to clear a blockage. If the person has lost consciousness and is no longer breathing, you should seek medical help immediately.
The Heimlich maneuver itself can cause injuries to an elderly person. A thorough medical examination should take place after every serious choking incident to make sure that the nursing home resident does not suffer any other injuries.
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Difficulty Swallowing in Seniors
Difficulty swallowing is another term for dysphagia, and dysphagia in the elderly frequently occurs. Stroke and dementia, as well as many other age-related diseases, contribute to dysphagia in seniors.
Some other conditions that can contribute to difficulty swallowing in the elderly can include:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Cerebral palsy
- Respiratory problems
- Age-related changes
- Radiation therapy
- Intubation and tracheostomy
Other conditions can contribute to, or worsen, dysphagia. As dysphagia affects nursing home residents in the United States, nursing home staff should know how to identify the condition. Dysphagia itself can cause other health problems for nursing home residents, such as malnutrition and pneumonia.
Does your loved one suffer from dysphagia or signs of choking? Some of the symptoms of dysphagia include coughing when swallowing, a hoarse voice, having pain when swallowing, and regurgitating food, among others. If your relative in the nursing home suffers from difficulty swallowing, they may require extra assistance and closer supervision by staff when eating and drinking.
Managing Dysphagia in Seniors
The goal of managing any difficulty with swallowing in the elderly includes avoiding further deterioration in health and ensuring that the resident receives adequate nutrition and hydration amounts as needed.
Nursing home staff can help by cutting foods into smaller pieces and encouraging a resident to eat slowly and deliberately. These simple adjustments can go a long way to helping a senior who has any problems with swallowing. Rather than eating three big meals a day, staff can experiment with offering several smaller meals to the affected senior at various times throughout the day.
Treatment and management of dysphagia in the nursing home can also include swallowing exercises and learning how to position the body correctly to make eating and drinking easier for a resident. If swallowing proves difficult and adequate nourishment and hydration suffer as a result, nursing home staff must act quickly and may have to resort to either a liquid diet or a feeding tube.
Negligence on Behalf of the Nursing Home
Most of the efforts to control dysphagia and signs of choking in nursing homes have one thing in common: they require the staff to acknowledge the issues and accommodate the residents accordingly. If your loved one struggles to swallow and is not getting the nutrition they require, or if they had choking incidents or medical problems from dysphagia, this may signal negligence on the part of the staff in the nursing home.
You have the right to consult a nursing home lawyer for advice in this situation. If your loved one has suffered unnecessarily, you may wish to act and hold the nursing home responsible.
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Choking Deaths in Nursing Homes
Nursing homes bear responsibility for identifying residents in need of extra help while eating and residents who suffer from swallowing difficulties or signs of choking. Not having enough staff to help residents or failing to assess a choking risk in a resident can qualify as negligence.
If your loved one suffered an injury or died as a result of a choking incident in a nursing home, you may qualify for compensation if you file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. We offer our prospective clients a complimentary consultation to assess their individual cases and help them weigh their options. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm today at (800) 201-3999.