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How Can Nursing Homes Prevent Choking?


For nursing home residents, swallowing food is often very difficult. It is critical that nursing home staff members supervise at meal time and monitor the food intake of the residents. When staff members do not understand when a resident is susceptible to choking, or they do not enforce diet restrictions, residents can choke. In the worst of cases, choking can even lead to wrongful death. Below, our Tampa lack of care attorney explains what to know about choking in nursing homes.

Why are the Elderly Susceptible to Choking? 

Nursing home residents are often very frail, and their bodily systems do not always work as well as they once did. As such, they are susceptible to choking for a number of reasons. The most common of these include:

  • Neurological disorders: Neurological issues such as multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson’s disease can all impact a person’s ability to swallow.
  • Neurological damage: When a person has suffered neurological damage due to a stroke or brain or spinal injuries, it can affect their ability to swallow.
  • Cancer: A person may suffer from a specific type of cancer, such as oral cancer, that prevents them from swallowing properly. Radiation treatment can also affect a person’s ability to swallow.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: Nursing home residents suffering from the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease can find eating and swallowing difficult.
  • Aging: It takes 50 pairs of nerves and muscles to swallow. It is no surprise, then, that over time a person’s throat muscles may become weaker.

Choking injuries may appear to be accidental, but nursing home facilities can be held accountable for these incidents. When staff members do not properly monitor residents, identify the signs of choking, or otherwise act negligently, they can be held accountable for their actions or inactions.

Common Signs of Choking 

There are many different signs of choking nursing home residents should recognize. The most common of these are as follows:

  • Gagging or coughing,
  • Panicked hand signals,
  • Sudden inability to speak,
  • Grabbing the throat with one or both hands,
  • Wheezing,
  • Passing out, and
  • Cyanosis, which is the medical term for the skin turning blue

Cyanosis will first start to appear around the lips, face, and fingernail beds.

How Should Nursing Homes Prevent Choking? 

When someone is admitted into a nursing home, a comprehensive assessment should be taken to determine the mental, physical, and psychological needs. The assessment should identify any risk of choking and a treatment guide or care plan should be formulated to prevent these hazards.

Nursing home staff members should also always ensure that residents have food that is easy to chew and swallow to prevent the risk of choking. When administrators, or staff members, fail to take these measures, they can be held liable for choking.

Our Lack of Care Attorney in Tampa Can Help After Choking 

Choking is extremely harmful to nursing home residents. At Kohn Law, our Tampa lack of care attorney can help after an incident that has caused your loved one harm and ensure they receive the compensation they deserve. Call us now at 813-428-8504 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.



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