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Keeping a Close Eye – The Need to Monitor Breathing Tubes

Some elderly and incapacitated resident patients of nursing homes and long-term care facilities have to use breathing tubes in order to aid their breathing and the oxygenation of their bodies and brains. Without the proper level of oxygen going to the brain, a person can suffer brain damage and eventually death. Unfortunately, in some sad instances a patient’s breathing tube can become clogged, and the effect is essentially like choking, where the person’s oxygen is depleted and they can lose consciousness, suffer brain damage, and die. If they are saved in time, brain damage could affect them for the rest of their life.

Breathing tubes are used to aid those who are unable to breathe on their own. These tubes in general are plastic tubes inserted into a patient’s throat or nose. Where a breathing tube is needed for a longer term of time, a more involved setup will be used where the tube extends down the patient’s throat, and makes it impossible for them to eat, drink or speak so that they need nutrition and water either intravenously or through a separate feeding tube.

When Things Go Wrong

When it comes to nursing home abuse, in the category of physical abuse it is certainly conceivable that a nursing home staffer or aide could intentionally clog a breathing tube or otherwise obstruct a patient’s airways. However, clogged breathing tubes can cause damage and death as a result of negligence, where aides fail to appropriately monitor patients to ensure they are safe and sound. Where a breathing tube becomes clogged or there is another problem with a ventilator, and staffers have not checked in on a patient for a long time, that negligence can lead to the patient’s injury or death, and the nursing home could very well be liable for that negligence. Nursing home staff must be sure that the tube stays properly in place. Another one of the many things a nursing home staffer must do is ensure that accumulating mucus is removed from the patient’s lungs, because that mucus can be one of the common sources of clogging.

Unfortunately, residents themselves may also be the ones to remove breathing tubes, but it is nevertheless the duty of the nursing home staff to ensure that the tube is reinserted and that the patient is under careful watch so that he or she does not remove it again. In one horrible situation in recent years in Michigan, a nursing home’s assistant director noticed that a patient’s breathing tube was out and laying on a dresser away from the bed, and in questioning the nursing assistant, the nursing assistant said she saw it on the resident’s room floor and simply just put it on the dresser – at no point did either person reinsert the tube, nor did the main nurse provide any reaction or move to reinsert it. The patient consequently had a mucus building up and nearly choked. Subsequently, the nursing home’s procedures were changed and staff was retrained in how to deal with breathing tubes.

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