When our loved ones go to a nursing home, we entrust them to the care of the facility’s employees. Nursing home patients suffer from many physical and mental issues, but one of issues that is often overlooked is the difficulty many elderly individuals have in swallowing. If a nursing home does not have staff available for monitoring diet and feeding patients that have difficulty swallowing, mealtimes can result in negligence that causes malnourishment, dehydration, choking and death.

Recently, a nursing home in Syracuse, New York, received a severe sanction because of a resident’s death in which the facility did not adequately plan for the patient’s care when attempting to eat. Even more disturbing is the case of Michael Joseph, a nursing home resident who choked to death just three days after being transferred. Joseph was served solid food rather than pureed food, despite the fact that the instructions on his transfer records clearly stated that he could not have solid food. Joseph had dementia and could no longer wear his dentures, according to his daughter who is suing the nursing home for $6 million. The claim also alleges that information about the choking incident was withheld by the nursing home from emergency workers, which allegedly resulted in a failure to ensure the emergency personnel had critical information needed to treat Joseph.

Many stroke survivors suffer from neurological conditions which can cause complications when attempting to swallow. Some nursing home patients require mealtime supervision, a pureed diet, food cut into small pieces, or a soft or moist food diet. Nursing homes must legally follow patients’ dietary restrictions just as they would medication procedures. Failure to do so is negligence, and the facility could be held liable for personal injury or wrongful death. Negligent actions include failure to offer mealtime assistance, giving the patient inappropriate foods, and improper preparation of food.

In addition, individuals with loved ones in a nursing home must be aware that eating issues can develop over time and may not have been present prior to entering the nursing home. Close monitoring on behalf of the nursing home is crucial in identifying choking hazards and difficulty swallowing. If you have lost a loved one due to choking, or if a loved one has suffered malnourishment or dehydration as a result of dietary negligence, the nursing home or residential facility may be held liable for nursing home abuse or negligence.