Elderly nursing home patients often have difficulty swallowing. Technically, its called “dysphagia” and provides the resident with the sensation that food is stuck in the throat or upper chest. The causes are many and include blockages caused by cervical spine disease and tumors, to nerve and muscle problems.

A good nursing home will assess new patients for swallowing problems upon admission to the facility. If the problem develops after admission, the nursing staff should be trained to spot the development of the problem. Either way, medical intervention may be needed and the resident’s diet (after review by a nutritionist) may be changed to a soft diet or other options.

What happens when no one is doing their job? Residents choke to death just like this report from California where a nursing home was fined $50,000 for a resident’s death due to choking.

My Take: If your loved one has problems swallowing their meals and drinking liquids, demand a visit by the doctor to assess the cause of the problem and discuss with the facility’s cafeteria ways to reduce the risk of choking.

Dan Frith
Dan Frith

Dan Frith has over 25 years of experience representing individuals and families in cases of medical malpractice throughout Virginia. He has been named "Best Medical Malpractice Attorney" by Roanoker Magazine and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. To speak with Dan, contact him by email at