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Common Causes of Choking Deaths In Nursing Homes

senior about to eat; Atlanta nursing home abuse and neglect lawyer

An experienced attorney can hold negligent facilities accountable.

Because they often suffer from various physical and cognitive challenges, nursing home residents are at an increased risk of choking. Staff members at nursing home facilities have a responsibility to be aware of this risk and to take steps to prevent residents from choking. Yet every year, nursing home residents die in choking incidents that could have been prevented.

Choking can occur when a piece of food gets caught in the airway, preventing air from entering the lungs. Brain cells don’t receive any oxygen, and brain damage can happen quickly. Without intervention, choking can cause death within just minutes.

Why nursing home residents are at risk

Several factors can increase the risk of choking among seniors. These include:

  • Swallowing difficulties: Some seniors experience dysphagia, a condition that impairs their ability to swallow safely and efficiently. Dysphagia can be a result of stroke, dementia, Parkinson's disease, and other neurological disorders.
  • Dental problems: Poor oral health, missing teeth, ill-fitting dentures, or untreated dental issues can affect chewing and swallowing.
  • Cognitive impairment: Seniors with cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia, may forget to chew or swallow properly.
  • Reduced mobility: Seniors with limited mobility may struggle to maintain an upright posture while eating, increasing the risk of choking.
  • Medications: Certain medications can affect saliva production, making it more difficult for food to travel down the pharynx and esophagus.
  • Dehydration: This can lead to dry mouth and reduced saliva production, which are important for swallowing safely.

The role of nursing homes in preventing choking

Nursing home facilities have a legal and ethical responsibility for the safety of residents. This responsibility includes taking steps to help prevent choking, which may include:

  • Diet planning: Modify diets to match residents' swallowing abilities and provide appropriate food consistencies to reduce the risk of choking.
  • Supervision: Ensure that residents are supervised during meals to provide immediate assistance if choking occurs.
  • A proper mealtime environment: Create a calm, distraction-free environment during meal times to help residents focus on eating and chewing.
  • Education and training: Train nursing home staff on recognizing choking risks, proper feeding techniques, and the Heimlich maneuver.
  • Regular dental care: Encourage regular dental check-ups and address any dental issues that might affect chewing and swallowing.
  • Medication management: Monitor medications and their potential effects on swallowing and alertness.
  • Hydration: Ensure residents remain adequately hydrated to support saliva production and overall health.
  • Individual care plans: Develop individual care plans that address each resident's specific choking risk factors and needs.

An experienced attorney can help you get justice

When a nursing home resident dies from a choking death that was caused by negligence, the facility needs to be held accountable. The Law Office of George S. Johnson can help.

Attorney George S. Johnson is an experienced nursing home neglect lawyer who has been fighting for residents and their families for more than 20 years in greater Atlanta and throughout Georgia. He is passionate about the rights of nursing home residents and believes family members deserve compensation when a loved one dies needlessly.

Proving nursing home negligence is complicated. That’s why it’s important to get legal advice as soon as possible. Contact us to schedule a free consultation. We can review the details of what happened and discuss your legal options.

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