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As you get older, choking becomes more of a risk. Unfortunately, in nursing homes or assisted living facilities choking is common due to dementia and/or Alzheimer’s, natural aging, medical conditions or medications, poor hiring in the facility and inadequate medical treatment. According to the National Safety Council, choking is the fourth most common cause of unintentional injury death. Of the 5,051 people who died from choking in 2015, 56 percent were older than 74. An obvious risk of choking is death. Brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain happens after just three to four minutes.

Signs of choking include:

  • Panicked look on the face
  • Coughing
  • Gagging
  • Pointing at throat
  • Inability to speak
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Turning blue in the face

5 Common Causes of Choking in Nursing Homes

There are many causes of choking, the most common causes include:

1. Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s Disease: Both conditions affect an individual’s memory, behavior, and ability to perform daily tasks, including swallowing, eating, chewing, and drinking, among others. As a result, individuals with these conditions may eat unsafe food or have trouble swallowing even safe food, potentially resulting in choking. If a nursing home or hospice facility does not provide adequate protection for these individuals, they may be responsible for any injuries resulting from a choking incident.
2. Natural Aging: There are multiple muscles involved in the eating and drinking process. As we age, these muscles naturally become weaker. If an elderly nursing home or hospice resident or patient needs supervision or assistance during the eating or drinking process because of their age, and the facility does not provide these services, they may be liable for the resulting injuries and suffering.
3. Other Medical Conditions and Medications: There are a variety of medical conditions and medications that can make it difficult for individuals to swallow, putting them at an increased risk for a choking accident. If the nursing home or hospice staff is aware of this and does not ensure proper precautions while the resident or patient is eating or drinking, they may be held responsible for any resulting injuries and suffering.
4. Poor Hiring: If a nursing home or hospice facility hires an employee that neglects, abuses or otherwise intentionally harms a resident, resulting in a choking incident or other accident, they may be held liable for any injuries caused by the employee. The facility is also responsible if they fail to provide adequate employee training or supervision.
5. Inadequate Medical Treatment: If a resident begins choking at a nursing home or hospice facility, and the staff does not provide adequate treatment for the injuries, the nursing home or hospice facility may be liable for the resulting pain and injuries.

If you suspect your loved one is experiencing abuse or neglect at their nursing home or hospice facility, your best course of action is to contact a skilled nursing home abuse or neglect attorney. An attorney can help you make sure you are within your statute of limitations, gather evidence, and help you navigate through this stressful situation.

Attorney Molly C. Lavin


Molly Lavin is a Shareholder with the Firm and co-managing partner of the Waukesha office. She is a second-generation lawyer, following in the footsteps of her father. Molly focuses her practice in the area of general personal injury law. This means that Molly has handled cases with a varied set of facts. Many of her cases involve injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents. She has also handled cases involving nursing home injuries, slip and falls, sexual assaults, dog bites, pharmacy errors, and injuries caused by home or building owners and/or contractors.

Molly graduated cum laude from Marquette University Law School and received her B.S. from the University of Dayton.

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Attorney Benjamin S. Wagner


Benjamin S. Wagner is a shareholder with the firm. His practice includes nursing home abuse and neglect, personal injury, car accidents, construction accidents, premises liability incidents, wrongful death and motorcycle accidents. Benjamin has successfully tried numerous cases throughout Wisconsin. Because of his significant trial experience and success, he has been certified as a Civil Trial Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and as an advocate by the National Board of Civil Pretrial Practice Advocacy.

He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 2003 and received the Phillips Owens Memorial Scholarship for outstanding academic achievement and community service.

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