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Choking a Sign of Nursing Home Neglect, Negligence

Nursing home neglect in Fellsmere can take many forms – and it can be equally as fatal as outright abuse.

Florida nursing home neglect attorneys know that one of the most dangerous aspects overlooked by staffers at these facilities is food.

In some cases, it’s failure to feed the patient the right type of food for their ability. In other cases, it’s not paying close enough attention to what the person may try to eat or put in his or her mouth.

In fact, four recent choking deaths at nursing homes throughout Connecticut have prompted calls for more prevention training for nursing home aides and staff. However, it appears that these patients in particular were already on doctor-ordered, soft-food diets, meaning those employees already had instructions not to feed the person hard foods, and yet they did so anyway. The result was four deaths.

The most recent one included a nursing aide who fed a resident chunks of ham and pieces of a hard cookie. Doesn’t sound terrible, but the dietitian overseeing the patient’s care had already indicated that he was only supposed to have ground meat and soft foods. He suffered dementia and needed help with eating. Neither of those things reportedly happened. He choked and died as a result. The assistant later admitted she never checked the diet slip before she served him the meal. In fact, she says she knew of his diet, but believed the ham was soft enough to eat.

It’s a distinction she wasn’t qualified to make. Nursing home doctors will examine each patient to determine whether they get a certain kind of diet. Among the options are typically: whole, chopped, soft, pureed, liquid and in some extreme cases, a feeding tube.

The facility got less than a slap on the wrist – a $615 fine (out of a maximum $3,000) and an order to retrain staff on dining room protocol.

That’s it.

This incident followed another death in April in which a patient who was on a soft-food diet choked to death on meatballs that he’d had delivered to his room from a nearby restaurant. He wasn’t allowed to be ordering out, but he had a history of mental disabilities and staff knew he had previously ordered take-out.

A month earlier, an 82-year-old woman choked to death on a marshmallow, and a month before that, an elderly man choked to death while eating a peanut butter sandwich while unattended.

Then in Kentucky, a 2010 death is under state review, following new evidence that a nurse left a resident choking to death for 15 to 20 minutes before returning to find him deceased. That facility has been placed on the state’s “troubled facilities” list, though it’s not clear whether the nurse personally faced any sanctions.

The fact is, many nursing home patients have difficulty swallowing for one reason or another. Sometimes, it’s the result of a stroke or muscle weakness due to Alzheimer’s Disease or other ailments. The nursing home facility has a responsibility to care for patients in this regard, and to be vigilant in preventing choking and choking deaths.

This also involves the proper training of staff in acting swiftly once they realize that someone is choking.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
4 Choking Deaths Reported At State Nursing Homes In 3 Months, By Josh Kovner, Hartford Courant

More Blog Entries:
Poorly Performing Nursing Homes Fail to Improve During 3-Year Analysis, July 21, 2012, Fellsmere Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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