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  • Writer's pictureLeitner Varughese Warywoda

Nursing Home Residents Have an Elevated Risk of Choking

The parents of young children go to great lengths to prevent their children from accidentally choking on food. They cut grapes in half and slice hot dogs lengthwise until long after their children have grown a full set of primary teeth. Young children are not the only category at high risk of choking accidents; they are not even the highest-risk group. The risk of dying from choking on food is seven times as high for seniors above the age of 65 than for children under the age of 5. Nursing home residents account for a disproportionate share of choking deaths, even when you only count choking deaths among the elderly. Nursing homes have a legal responsibility to keep residents safe from preventable accidents, including those that involve choking on food. To find out more about nursing home safety, contact a New York City nursing home lawyer.

Why are Elderly People at High Risk of Choking on Food?

When you are healthy, reflexes let the muscles in the back of your throat know when there is food or liquid in the back of your mouth. If the food or liquid is supposed to be there, then your body knows when to swallow so that the food or liquid goes to your esophagus. If it is not supposed to be there, your muscles close the back of your throat to stop the food from blocking your airway and to stop liquids or solid particles from getting into your lungs. When food pieces get into your lungs, it is called aspiration of food; if you are healthy, it will simply come out when you cough, but if you are not, then aspiration can be a serious problem. Elderly people, especially those whose health is so vulnerable that they require nursing home care, are at high risk of choking or aspirating food because their swallowing muscles are not as strong, and their reflexes are not as sharp.

Choking Deaths in Nursing Homes are Preventable

Nursing home employees can prevent choking deaths. Each resident should have an individualized feeding plan. Some residents can chew and swallow solid food; they may or may not need help with cutting food or spoon feeding. Other residents require pureed foods or a liquid diet, and some require parenteral nutrition. Even residents capable of independent self-feeding require supervision. There should be enough staff members in the dining room that they can respond quickly if a resident begins to choke on food; a person who is choking cannot cough or make vocal sounds. A fast response to choking can prevent catastrophic outcomes, but it only takes a few minutes for someone to suffer permanent injury because of choking.

Contact Leitner Varughese Warywoda PLLC About Nursing Home Neglect Cases

A nursing home lawyer can help you if you suspect that a family member of yours is not receiving adequate supervision in a nursing home. Contact Leitner Varughese Warywoda PLLC in Brooklyn, New York, or call (212)671-1110 to discuss your case.

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