Aspiration, the act of taking foreign material into the lungs, is a complication often faced by older adults in nursing homes. A variety of causes, including improper feeding practices and poor oral hygiene, can lead to the obstruction of airways and, potentially, death.
When aspiration doesn't cause choking, it can create an infection in the lungs that is referred to as aspiration pneumonia. Pneumonia is the second most common infection among elderly residents of assisted living facilities, and is often deadly for these patients with compromised immune systems.
It is often difficult to tell when pneumonia is caused by aspiration, as the initial aspirating event is usually not witnessed. But it is important for caregivers to be aware of any potential warning signs, such as swallowing difficulties. Gurgling sounds or coughing during meals may be an indication a patient is aspirating. Patients should be monitored while eating and kept in an upright position. Studies show that tube feeding does not prevent the risk of aspiration and may actually increase it by weakening the lower esophageal sphincter.
Oral hygiene also plays an important part in the prevention of aspiration pneumonia. Healthy teeth are required to chew and process food. Studies show that patients who receive proper oral care have a significant reduction in pneumonia.
The following symptoms may be a sign of aspiration pneumonia:
• Chest pain
• Swallowing difficulty
Please feel free to contact the nursing home neglect lawyers at Dever & Feldstein, LLC at (888) 825-9119 for a free consultation if you believe that a family member or loved one has sustained serious injury or wrongful death as a result of aspiration pneumonia, bed sores (also known as pressure sores or decubitus ulcers), nursing home falls, dehydration/malnutrition, medication error/prescription mistake, elder abuse or elder neglect.