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Aspiration Pneumonia in Nursing Home Patients

Aspiration Pneumonia Nursing Home Patient Eating Food Aspiration pneumonia is a condition that is unfortunately common among elderly residents. It attacks vulnerable residents whose immune systems are already weakened.

This type of pneumonia is one of the leading causes of death among nursing home patients. The routine day-to-day care of an elderly resident or lack thereof by staff members can be a risk factor for this disease.

The medical care that seniors receive at their nursing homes when they have aspiration pneumonia can also be a determinant of whether they are able to survive the illness.

However, many nursing homes either fail to spot the warning signs that would enable their physicians to give prompt treatment or simply do not give adequate medical care to residents.

If your family member suffered serious medical complications or death related to aspiration pneumonia during admission to nursing, you may have grounds to pursue a negligence case against the facility.

The nursing home abuse attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC in Chicago, Illinois have experience prosecuting nursing home abuse claims and are ready to assist you with your situation.

How Aspiration Pneumonia Develops in Elderly Individuals

Aspiration pneumonia is an illness that does not necessarily result from natural causes. Instead, it is an infection that is caused by the fact that the patient aspirates something into their lungs. Generally, this is either food, liquid or vomit. They may be having trouble eating or drinking and the byproducts end up in their lungs. In other words, the sickness results from foreign material entering their lungs which may be preventable.

While a case of pneumonia can be but is not likely to be fatal, aspiration pneumonia has a much higher mortality rate. In fact, between 10-30% of people who develop this condition end up dying from it. Some studies have shown a fatality rate of roughly 20%. Oftentimes, once the condition is diagnosed, it is too late to help the patient make a full recovery. If the patient dies from the condition, they will usually pass away within 30 days.

Risk Factors Contributing to the Development in Long-Term Care Facilities

Most healthy people are not at risk of developing aspiration pneumonia. Those over the age of 75 have the highest risk of the illness. There are risk factors that nursing home residents have that make them more likely to contract aspiration pneumonia. Specifically, some of the things that make an elderly resident a higher risk are:
  • Use of a tube feeding
  • Missing teeth or poor oral hygiene
  • The weakness of the muscles needed for swallowing
  • An already weakened immune system
As you can see, there is some risk that inadequate nursing home care can increase a resident's risk for developing aspiration pneumonia. For example, staff can fail to adequately maintain the resident's oral hygiene and the result can be fluid aspirating into the lung. Alternatively, they could fail to care for and maintain the feeding tube. While aspiration pneumonia may not be able to be fully prevented by the proper care, a lack of care can certainly be a factor in whether a resident develops the condition.

How to Prevent Aspiration Pneumonia in Skilled Nursing Facilities

Oftentimes, aspiration pneumonia can be prevented by giving the resident the proper dietary case and supervision. Ensuring that the resident sits up while eating lowers some of the risks. Giving the resident the right type of food can also help. For example, if the resident is not able to properly chew the food, the nursing staff should give them soft foods that can be easily swallowed. However, many of the lower performing nursing homes do not closely scrutinize their residents' diet and food intake even though federal regulations require it.

Nonetheless, there are warning signs of aspiration pneumonia that the staff should be able to spot. The normal daily healthcare and examinations may often be enough to alert the staff that something is wrong with the resident and that there is a need for further testing. For example, fever, cough, and trouble swallowing are a few of the symptoms of aspiration pneumonia. If these persist for several days, it is a possible sign of the condition.

However, not all nursing homes give the proper medical care that could result in finding the condition. They may mistake the symptoms with those of another condition or they may not even find them at all. This is another way in which substandard care can endanger the life of the resident as a prompt diagnosis is key if your loved one is to survive this serious illness. At a minimum, aspiration pneumonia will likely result in a long hospital stay and the need for long-term treatment.

Medical Treatment for Aspiration Pneumonia

When aspiration pneumonia has been diagnosed, it is often difficult to treat it. There can be three parts to the treatment of this illness. It is critical to get patients started with antibiotics, either through an IV or pills, as soon as possible. Any delay in starting this course of treatment can have an impact on whether the resident survives and their quality of life if they are able to recover. Another part of the treatment is a course of steroids to reduce any swelling in the lungs. Since the ability to breathe may be impacted, patients may also need to be given oxygen.

The Nursing Care Facility May Be at Fault for Your Loved One's Aspiration Pneumonia Related Illness

In many cases, aspiration pneumonia is a sign of nursing home negligence. It can be one of the deadliest results of the neglect that is pervasive at many nursing homes. As you can see above, there are many aspects of poor-quality care that can cause a resident to develop this condition. Bedridden residents often do not receive the amount of daily help and supervision that could keep them from contracting aspiration pneumonia. If your loved one has been sickened or even died from aspiration pneumonia, you should investigate the circumstances of their care at the nursing home.

While some cases of aspiration pneumonia are unavoidable, many others result from nursing home abuse, as neglect is considered a form of abuse. When a resident dies from a preventable condition, you may have a wrongful death case against the nursing home. This can result in a wrongful death lawsuit since the loss of your loved one could have been prevented. If your loved one has developed aspiration pneumonia while residing in a nursing home, contact the Chicago, Illinois nursing home neglect attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC to learn more about your legal options.
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