How Common are Choking Accidents in Nursing Homes?

By Rich Hitz of Carlson & Burnett on Friday, March 31, 2017.

When a person ages, certain aspects of their lives are more difficult, muscles will stiffen and even walking becomes a chore. For many people living in a nursing home facility, swallowing food may prove difficult. For most nursing homes, monitoring or supervising the food intake of its patients takes place on a regular basis. However, the risk of choking, including death, increase when nursing homes fail to enforce diet restrictions or do not pay close attention to those patients who are susceptible to problems with choking.

Believe it or not, there are over 50 pairs of muscles and nerves involved when it comes to swallowing food and there are many conditions that may influence whether a patient can swallow or not. Some of the most common problems that can lead to swallowing disorders include:

  • Neurological disorders – Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis may all influence the ability to swallow.
  • Neurological damage – If a person has suffered spinal or brain injuries or has suffered a stroke, it may affect his or her ability to swallow.
  • Cancer – There are types of cancer that may affect the patient’s ability to swallow. The radiation treatment may also play a role here.
  • Alzheimer’s disease – Alzheimer’s patients in the later stages of the disease may find it difficult to swallow and eat.
  • Aging – Considering it takes 50 pairs of muscles and nerves to swallow, it is not surprising that wear and tear on the throat muscles can make it difficult to swallow for older patients.

It should be standard care for those patients who have trouble swallowing in a nursing home setting to be examined by a physician occasionally to determine the severity of the problem. All caregivers who interact with the patient need to know and understand the severity of the impairment. There are tremendous consequences to choking for nursing home patients. When choking, oxygen is cut off, leading to possible permanent brain damage or possibly even death.

While tragic accidents do happen, many choking injuries at nursing homes might have been preventable if the staff members made sure to follow orders as provided for that patient. If harm does occur, either because of unqualified staff members or because the facility was understaffed, it is important to hold that institution responsible.

If you have questions about an injury a loved one experienced in nursing home care due to trouble swallowing, give the attorneys at Carlson & Burnett a call. At Carlson & Burnett, our entire focus is on helping you regardless how complex or simple your problem may be. Contact our Nursing Home Negligence and Abuse Attorneys at Carlson & Burnett to schedule a free consultation.
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