Choking in Nursing Homes

Choking is the fourth leading cause of death in nursing home residents.

Many patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments cannot eat safely on their own without assistance. 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. Unfortunately, many impaired residents do not get the assistance they need due to understaffing, impatience, unqualified staff and poor training. Also, many nursing home personnel may not be informed about the dietary restrictions of each resident.

Many nursing home residents who have cognitive impairments often have poor judgment, difficulty chewing and trouble with swallowing food. If the problem is known to the nursing home, the resident should be assessed for what foods are safest for him or her to eat.

It is important that the nursing home personnel not only provide soft food and cut up other food in small pieces, but also monitor those residents during meals to prevent choking injuries.

While an injury may appear to be accidental, nursing homes can be held accountable for choking incidents if the resident was not properly monitored.


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