Personal Injury & Nursing Home Abuse
Pittsburgh and Western PA

Choking Incidents in Pennsylvania Nursing Homes

A nursing home neglect lawyer can fight for compensation

Nursing home residents are often vulnerable to choking. They may have difficulty chewing and swallowing, and preventative measures must be taken. When left unsupervised, the risk of choking increases, and the consequences can be tragic.

The nursing home neglect attorneys at Hal Waldman & Associates in Pittsburgh understand that choking is often a direct result of facility negligence. Your loved one deserves to live safely without fear of choking. That’s why we fight hard to hold nursing homes accountable.

Causes of choking in nursing homes

Choking in nursing homes is a concerning but preventable issue. Many factors are linked to the risk of choking, making it crucial for staff members to be proactive and aware while caring for residents. Some of the most common causes of choking in nursing homes include:

Dry mouth

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, happens when there is a lack of saliva production in the mouth. This can occur as a side effect of certain medications. Dehydration can also cause dry mouth.

Saliva helps break down food, making it softer and easier to swallow. With a dry mouth, swallowing becomes difficult, increasing the risk of choking.


Many residents may have dentures, which can bring about risks of choking. Dentures must be fitted appropriately; chewing and swallowing become problematic when they're not. When dentures don’t fit correctly, they can shift while a resident is chewing food. This leads to food not being chewed enough and creating a choking hazard.


Seizures associated with epilepsy can lead a resident to lose consciousness without warning. If this happens while they’re eating, they can choke. Seizures also affect muscle control. This makes it difficult for residents to have full control over their throat and mouth, increasing the risk of choking.

Parkinson’s disease

Nursing home residents with Parkinson’s disease may suffer from dysphagia or difficulty swallowing. These residents can have weak muscles in their throat and mouth, making it challenging to control their chewing and swallowing, increasing the risk of choking.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia affect memory and other cognitive functions. Residents with such conditions can become confused during mealtimes, increasing the risk of choking.

The role of nursing home neglect in choking incidents

Nursing homes need to take proactive steps to prevent choking. This includes assessing residents’ ability to chew and swallow food, including ordering swallow studies if necessary. It also means putting a resident on a soft diet if their ability to chew is limited.

During mealtimes, residents need to be adequately supervised to avoid choking incidents. When there is insufficient staff to supervise residents during this time, choking can occur and go unnoticed until it’s too late. As with most types of nursing home neglect, understaffing is often a factor.

When staff are untrained and inexperienced, they may not know what warning signs to recognize for choking. In addition, untrained staff may not know how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver if a choking incident occurs. Staff not trained in first aid will be unable to help a resident in the case of an emergency, and this can result in a choking death or permanent brain damage.

Warning signs of choking

A resident can choke suddenly, resulting in serious consequences and complications. By becoming aware of the warning signs, staff can prevent nursing home residents from choking. Some of the most common symptoms of choking include:

  • A panicked look on the face
  • Holding throat or chest
  • Difficulty speaking or breathing
  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Struggling to swallow
  • Visible lump in the throat
  • Struggling to clear a cough
  • Changes in skin color, turning pale or blue
  • Loss of consciousness

How a Pittsburgh nursing home choking attorney can help

Your family may be entitled to compensation if your loved one experienced a choking incident due to neglect in a nursing home. At Hal Waldman & Associates, we believe that all acts of abuse and neglect deserve action. Your family shouldn’t have to suffer at the hands of these facilities. Contact us today, and let us help you hold negligent nursing homes accountable.

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