Death from Aspiration in a Nursing Home

Written and edited by our team of expert legal content writers and reviewed and approved by Daniel Harwin

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Aspiration death – or death due to a blocked airway –can occur when a nursing home negligently monitors residents. If your loved one recently died from aspiration while living at a nursing home or long-term care facility in Florida, contact Freedland Harwin Valori Gander, PL, for a consultation about your rights as a surviving family member. Legal action can help hold the responsible party accountable if a person or facility could have prevented the fatal incident.

What Is Aspiration Death?

Aspiration death refers to the fatal blockage of an airway due to inhaling a foreign material. Foreign materials can refer to food and drink, objects, mucous and saliva, medications, vomit or acid reflux, or issues such as inflammation of the respiratory tract from infection or pneumonia. Anything that prevents the victim from breathing freely could qualify as aspiration. Aspiration death in a nursing home could take the form of aspiration pneumonia, pulmonary aspiration, or choking. Aspiration death is often preventable with adequate resident monitoring and care. Prevention methods can include:

  • Providing easy-to-chew and swallow food to seniors
  • Monitoring seniors while they eat and drink
  • Conducting medical evaluations to check for aspiration risks
  • Monitoring cases of pneumonia to watch for aspiration pneumonia
  • Giving medications to control acid reflux or nausea
  • Detecting symptoms and risk factors for aspiration
  • Treating aspiration before it becomes fatal

Death by aspiration is preventable if a nursing home staff member or physician is properly monitoring a senior at risk of this issue. Nursing homes should check resident medical histories and identify those at higher risk of aspiration, such as those with decreased cognitive awareness, poor control or mobility of their trunks, those taking sedatives, and those with physical deformities. The facility should then take steps to prevent aspiration as appropriate.

Death by Aspiration Pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia is the most common cause of aspiration-related death in the elderly. Preventing this takes appropriate elderly medical care, treatment, antibiotics, infection prevention, and medical monitoring. Nursing home employees should learn to recognize the signs of aspiration pneumonia and take swift action to remedy the problem before it becomes fatal. Symptoms can include:

  • Coughing or gagging
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discoloration of skin or lips
  • Fever or sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Foul-smelling and discolored sputum
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Breath odor

Upon further examination, decreased oxygen intake and elevated pulse could help physicians diagnose aspiration pneumonia in time to recommend treatment. Treatment can include administering antibiotics to fight the lung infection, as well as helping residents maintain the right body position while eating and during digestion. It is up to the nursing facility to spot and take appropriate action to prevent and treat aspiration.

Seeking Recovery for Aspiration Death

If negligence played a role in the recent aspiration death of your elderly loved one, the lawyers at Freedland Harwin Valori Gander, PL, can get to the bottom of it. We can investigate the incident, gather any evidence of wrongdoing, and help you present your case to an insurance company, judge, or jury. In Florida, only the personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may bring a wrongful death claim. Let us be your legal representation for the highest odds of securing fair compensation.

Your family could be eligible for damages such as funeral and burial costs, medical bills, emotional suffering, and the loss of the senior’s love and companionship. Our wrongful death attorneys have years of experience handling nursing home abuse and neglect claims and can help you learn and protect your deceased loved one’s rights. If we believe the nursing home or its employees should have spotted and treated or prevented aspiration death, we can argue your case during settlement negotiations or a jury trial, if necessary. For more information about your claim, contact our  Florida team at (954) 467-6400 or schedule a consultation online. Our medical malpractice law firm in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Gables, South Florida, is here to provide the support and expertise you need.

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