Some elderly seniors struggle with dysphagia, which is when a person has difficulty swallowing. Families of elderly loved ones make the difficult decision to place their loved one in a nursing home in order that they receive consistent supervision and monitoring. When a nursing home fails to monitor residents who may struggle with swallowing, choking accidents can occur that result in serious medical injuries or even fatalities.
Learn more about dysphagia in the elderly population and how nursing homes have a legal responsibility to monitor and supervise residents in their care. They must be proactive in preventing medical complications or fatalities as a result of dysphagia.
Dysphagia in Nursing Homes
Dysphagia is a common condition in elderly populations. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) indicates that over 50 pairs of muscles and nerves must work together simultaneously in order to properly swallow. As people age, these muscles and nerves weaken and can eventually deteriorate, causing significant challenges with swallowing.
Additionally, many elderly seniors struggle with dysphagia as a result of developing neurological or neurodegenerative diseases, which can ultimately affect muscles and nerves, making it more difficult for these seniors to swallow. It is important to note that every single nursing home resident that present with challenges regarding swallowing should have this information included in their individual plan of care.
Including this information in a plan of care is key. It should alert all nursing home employees to the fact that they should spend additional time making sure that these residents have assistance swallowing food or swallowing medications in order to ensure their continued health. Any failure to monitor residents who may struggle with swallowing is a sign of nursing home negligence.
Signs of Dysphagia in the Elderly
The NICDC indicates that dysphagia occurs in the elderly following strokes, the development of Parkinson’s disease, or simply due to fragility in older age. While nursing homes should monitor all residents for any issues that appear with regard to swallowing challenges, they have a duty to ensure that those residents that have dysphagia listed as part of their plan of care should receive additional supervision during mealtimes and when residents receive medications.
Failure to monitor and supervise these elderly residents can easily result in choking or even death. Some of the signs of dysphagia in the elderly include the following:
- Cough while eating, or immediately after
- Throat clearing
- Eating appears painful
- Food stays only on one side of the mouth
- Spitting out food
- Changes in voice
- Drooling while eating
- Chewing for an extended period of time but not swallowing
- Touching their throat or chest while eating
- Taking a long time to eat
- Playing with food instead of eating
- Eating extremely quickly
- Watery eyes
- Runny nose
- Unexplained weight loss
Choking in Nursing Homes
Choking risks are high in the population of nursing homes, as some elderly residents simply lose the ability to swallow easily. This failure may due to medical reasons or medications they take on a regular basis. A nursing home has a responsibility to ensure that they monitor all residents, specifically those that have challenges with dysphagia.
If a nursing home resident begins to choke, all nursing home staff employees should have the proper training and education in order to assist them in preventing a serious medical injury or fatality. The warning signs of choking include coughing, inability to speak, gagging, panic signaling, grabbing of the throat, or passing out. Every nursing home should have emergency protocols to deal with any situation that involves an elderly resident suffering from a choking episode.
Wrongful Death Due to Choking
If an elderly resident of a nursing home dies due to the failure of the nursing home employees to monitor residents who may struggle with swallowing, the family of the elderly resident may have the legal right to bring a claim to receive justice for their loved one’s untimely death. While no amount of money will bring back someone’s family member, the family may face unexpected costs, including funeral expenses, remaining medical bills related to the choking attack, and loss of companionship.
Learn How We Can Help
Nursing homes should always have a consistent system in which they monitor and supervise any elderly resident that struggles with swallowing or has dysphagia.
Choking incidents should never happen, but if they do, the nursing home should also provide proper training and education so the employees have the proper resources to ensure the safety of residents.
If your elderly loved one suffered any complications from choking or died, consider contacting Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 842-6336 today to learn how we can help you with your case.