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Choking and suffocation continue to be leading causes of death in nursing homes. Many patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other cognitive impairments cannot eat safely on their own. For these patients, nursing home personnel must assist them while they eat to ensure that they do not put too much food in their mouth at one time and that they swallow properly. Despite federal requirements that nursing homes maintain adequate staff, many impaired residents do not get the assistance they need.

The same goes for suffocation. Immobile or cognitively impaired patients and patients requiring supplemental oxygen need special assistance to ensure these patients do not get their heads stuck between bed rails or entangled in other restraining devices. Oxygen tubes must be kept free from obstructions. Patients who have tracheostomies need care that their trachea is not accidentally pulled out by the patient, other patients or incompetent employees.

 If you or a loved one has choked, or if a loved one has suffocated in a nursing home, you should contact an experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorney immediately.

Common Causes of Choking and Suffocation in Nursing Homes

  • Lack of assistance while eating or drinking – Residents whose comprehensive assessments indicate that they are not capable of eating or drinking safely on their own must have assistance.
  • Dehydration – Dehydration leads to dry throat and difficulty swallowing.
  • Entanglement – Cognitively impaired or otherwise disabled residents can easily get tangled in restraints or garments, get their head caught between bed rails, balusters, and similar devices or structures.
  • Respiratory disease – Phlegm produced by colds, bronchial infections and other respiratory diseases can accumulate and block the airway.
  • Faulty or poorly maintained breathing aids – Breathing tubes and oxygen tank tubes can become obstructed if not properly maintained. Oxygen tanks must be filled regularly.
  • Drug side effects – Some medications cause dry mouth or other side effects which make it difficult to swallow or breathe.

Bedrail Injuries/Deaths

Another type of choking-related incident that occurs in nursing homes is that residents may get caught between the rails of their bed. Patients have died by getting their head stuck and not being helped in time. The law requires that a doctor write an order for bedrails when they are used to restrain a patient. So, the use of bedrails is often not questioned, and people mistakenly believe they are an effective safety mechanism.

A common injury associated with bedrails occurs when the patient climbs over the bedrails and falls to the floor. When residents attempt to climb over the restraints, they may get suspended in the restraint and suffer any of the following:

  • Chest compression
  • Strangulation
  • Asphyxiation
  • Death

Bedrail entrapment is a very serious problem.

If you live in the Arizona area and have lost a loved one due to a choking incident in a nursing home, please contact the experienced nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Cullan & Cullan, M.D., J.D. today to schedule your confidential, no-cost consultation. Our law firm includes attorneys are also doctors who know how to fight for your rights and get the compensation you deserve.

20830 N. Tatum Blvd, Ste. 360
Phoenix , AZ 85050-7268

The Arizona nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers at Cullan and Cullan M.D., J.D. includes lawyers who are also doctors. We are a for profit law firm. We use our medical expertise to more effectively represent victims of nursing home abuse. We do not practice medicine. The information provided on this web site does not constitute an attorney client relationship. For more information about the law firm, contact the Phoenix, Arizona offices of Cullan & Cullan MD., J.D. for a consultation.

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