Choking and Suffocation Injuries in New Mexico Nursing Homes

nurse feeding resident from a bowlSuffocating and choking on food are ongoing problems at New Mexico nursing homes. Choking and suffocation can be fatal, but even if the flow of oxygen is restored, residents could suffer permanent brain damage.

Many residents suffer from physical or cognitive impairments that make it more difficult for them to safely swallow food. For instance, residents who have been diagnosed with dementia, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease struggle to chew and swallow their food without assistance.

Suffocation often results from clogged breathing tubes. Residents who need oxygen require assistance to ensure breathing tubes are unobstructed.

Below, we discuss the risk factors for choking and suffocation, the injuries that can result and what nursing homes should do to mitigate risks. If your elderly loved one was injured or died because of choking or suffocation, the nursing home could face liability. However, it is critical that you act quickly to protect your loved one’s rights.

Contact the New Mexico nursing home abuse lawyers at PKSD New Mexico for a free consultation to discuss your case. Our compassionate team is here to help you understand your rights. We have secured millions for victims of nursing home neglect and abuse and there are no upfront costs with our services.

No Legal Obligation. We are Available to Take Your Call 24/7: 505-677-7777 .

Risk Factors for Choking and Suffocation in Nursing Homes

There are numerous physical and cognitive risk factors for choking and suffocation among nursing home residents in New Mexico:

Neurological Disorders

These medical conditions are some of the most common risk factors for choking or suffocation:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Dementia
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)

Alzheimer’s can affect a resident’s ability to remember what foods are safe to eat or even how to chew. These residents usually require assistance to ensure they are getting the nutrition they need and to avoid choking.

Parkinson’s disease affects muscle coordination and control, including control and coordination of muscles in the face and jaw. This makes it harder for people to chew food effectively. Some people with Parkinson’s have a delayed swallowing reflex. Another problem with Parkinson’s is reduced saliva production, making chewing and swallowing more complicated.

Physical Limitations From Brain Injuries

A brain injury like a stroke can impair swallowing mechanics and safety reflexes, increasing the possibility of choking or suffocating. Brain injuries can also weaken muscles used for chewing and swallowing. This includes muscles in the throat, esophagus and mouth.

Poor Dental Health

Some nursing home residents have lost a lot of teeth, making it harder to effectively chew food and make it easier to swallow.

While dentures can help make eating easier, sometimes they are not properly fitted, making it harder to chew food thoroughly. This can lead to swallowing larger pieces of food, which are more likely to become lodged in the throat.

Some of the other potential risk factors for choking and suffocation in nursing homes include:

  • Acid reflux
  • Side effects from medication, such as dry mouth
  • Poor posture, increasing the risk of food getting stuck in the airway
  • Respiratory conditions like bronchitis or even a cold that generates phlegm
  • Dehydration
  • Sleeping in a bed with a railing, as residents’ heads could get stuck between the bed and the railing, leading to suffocation
  • Depression, which can result in hurried eating after a period of not eating much
  • Improper diet, as some foods can be harder to chew or swallow than others

Dangers of Choking and Suffocation

Choking and suffocating prevent oxygen from reaching the lungs where it can be sent to the brain. When the brain is deprived of oxygen, a condition called hypoxia, brain cells begin to die within minutes. That means someone who is choking or suffocating can suffer an irreversible brain injury rather quickly. Without immediate intervention, the person is at high risk of death.

Some of the specific injuries that may result from choking on food or suffocating include:

  • Tears of the esophagus after a forceful attempt to clear food so the person can breathe
  • Severe lung infection caused by inhaling food into the lungs
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Seizures
  • Psychological trauma, such as panic or anxiety disorders related to eating

Even though some residents are at higher risk of choking on food or suffocating, these incidents are often the nursing home’s fault. The facility may have been understaffed, had poorly trained staff or failed to adhere to safety protocols, especially protocols about diet and assistance with eating.

If your loved one has experienced harm due to such negligence, our experienced lawyers may be able to hold the facility accountable.

What Should Nursing Homes Do To Mitigate Suffocation and Choking Risks?

Nursing homes can implement several strategies to prevent choking and suffocation:

  • Assessing Residents for Choking Risks: Nursing homes have a legal responsibility to evaluate residents to determine how to care for them. Facilities should develop personalized care plans to address breathing difficulties or problems chewing food. For example, the plan might specify the types of foods residents should avoid or that certain residents should receive assistance with eating food.
  • Medical Treatment and Monitoring: Nursing homes should implement appropriate medical interventions, such as swallowing assessments and feeding assistance, and continuously monitor at-risk residents. There should also be an emergency response plan when a resident is choking or suffocating, as quick and effective action can save lives.
  • Choking-Free Diets: Tailoring diets to reduce risks, including modifying food textures and sizes is another vital step.
  • Staff Training: Ensuring all staff are adequately trained in emergency procedures and patient care. They should be educated on proper feeding techniques and emergency responses, including the Heimlich maneuver and CPR. Additionally, staff must be familiar with each resident’s specific care plan as it relates to dietary needs and swallowing difficulties.

Contact PKSD New Mexico to Schedule Your Free Consultation

If your loved one suffered long-term injuries from choking or suffocation in a nursing home, do not hesitate to reach out to our licensed lawyers for legal help. There is a time limit on filing legal action, so it is vital that you act quickly. The sooner you contact and hire an experienced lawyer, the sooner the investigation can begin.

Our team is committed to fighting for the safety and dignity of nursing home residents, ensuring they receive the care and justice they deserve. Let us help you take the first step toward safeguarding their well-being and securing the compensation necessary to cover medical treatments and other damages.

Call today to schedule a free case review: 505-677-7777 .

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