Choking ProblemsChoking injuries and fatalities are a concern in the elderly, especially those who require full-time nursing care. There are a host of disorders and medications that can make swallowing difficult for the elderly, putting nursing home patients at risk for choking when eating, taking medications or even drinking water. In addition, patients that require a breathing tube rely on the nursing home staff to ensure that they are able to get the air they need and to prevent choking and oxygen deprivation. When choking injuries and deaths occur in a nursing home, the facility may be liable for negligence.

Food-related Choking In Nursing Homes

Between 2007-2010, there were over 2,200 deaths of persons 65-years of age or older due to food-related choking. With many elderly depending on nursing homes for their care, preventing choking when eating should be a high priority. Many elderly have medical conditions that are connected with swallowing disorders, which require special foods as well as supervision to prevent choking injuries and fatalities.

Many of these choking deaths may have been prevented by awareness of caregivers. There are many causes of swallowing disorders in the elderly, all of which nursing home  medical and nursing staff should be aware. Just the normal aging process can make it more difficult to swallow, along with teeth and jaw problems that make chewing food challenging for many elderly. Other contributions to swallowing problems and choking include:

  • Medications. Many medications can cause “dry-mouth” and limit saliva production, making it hard to swallow
  • Health issues. Neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s can have an effect on swallowing as well as other medical conditions such as stroke damage and certain cancers.
  • Eating issues. Eating too fast, drinking liquids while eating, lying down when eating or trying to eat tough or large pieces of food can lead to choking.

Most food-related choking can be prevented with diet changes and supervision while eating in nursing homes. It is the responsibility of the medical staff to identify these swallowing challenges and make accommodations for the patients to remove risk of choking.

Maintaining Breathing Machines And Tubes

For patients that rely on on ventilators or breathing machines to breathe, maintaining this

equipment is vital to their survival. Nursing homes must ensure that their staff is maintaining this equipment so that patients are receiving the oxygen they need. This can include:

  • Regular inspections and maintenance on breathing equipment
  • Proper cleaning of breathing tubes
  • Adequate supervision of those relying on breathing machines

It only takes a few minutes of air/oxygen deprivation to cause brain damage or death in a patient. Without constant vigilance, a nursing home patient can be injured or even die due to their breathing equipment becoming clogged or malfunctioning.

A Legal Duty To Prevent Choking In Nursing Homes

Nursing home patients should be regularly monitored for swallowing difficulties due to the prevalence of these disorders in the elderly. As part of their care plan, these patients should have their dietary needs evaluated along with care guidelines to ensure their safety. Simple diet precautions along with adequate supervision can eliminate many choking injuries and deaths that are caused by negligence in nursing home facilities. When facilities fail to adhere to dietary restrictions in place for patients, and a patient becomes injured or is killed, a claim for damages may be pursued against the facility. Our nursing home attorneys appreciate the feelings of frustration and anger families encounter after an incident at a nursing home involving a loved one. Allow us to evaluate your case without any cost or obligation on your end. 888-424-5757

Read more about how skilled nursing facilities can prevent choking incidents with patients:


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Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa
After I read Jonathan’s Nursing Home Blog, I decided to hire him to look into my wife’s treatment at a local nursing home. Jonathan did a great job explaining the process and the laws that apply to nursing homes. I immediately felt at ease and was glad to have him on my side. Though the lawsuit process was at times frustrating, Jonathan reassured me, particularly at my deposition. I really felt like Jonathan cared about my wife’s best interests, and I think that came across to the lawyers for the nursing home. Eric