Patients who are admitted into nursing homes often choose nursing homes because they have certain conditions or limitations that prevent them from being able to care for themselves. Indeed, it is typically at the point where self-care is impossible–and family members cannot provide the around-the-clock care that an elderly person needs and deserves–that nursing home care becomes a viable option.
Nursing homes are tasked with the duty of providing their residents with a high level of care. This includes doing everything from assisting with personal hygiene and eating, to providing treatment and care for specific conditions and ensuring social interaction, amongst other things. One task that nursing homes and their staff members may face is providing care for elderly patients with tracheostomy. While high level care is necessary to protect the best outcome for patients, neglect, abuse, or malpractice can lead to improper tracheostomy care in nursing homes that results in patient harm or death.
WHAT IS TRACHEOSTOMY
The Mayo Clinic explains that a tracheostomy is a hole in the windpipe (trachea) that is created surgically. Once the tracheostomy is created, a tube is typically placed within the hole to provide an airway, and to help remove secretions from the lungs.
Patients may require a tracheostomy and trach tube for a number of reasons, with the surgery often being performed when the natural means of breathing is obstructed, or when a health condition requires the use of a ventilator for breathing help. The Mayo Clinic further explains that situations that commonly warrant a tracheostomy include:
- When a person requires a ventilator for an extended period of time;
- When a person suffers from a condition that blocks the airway, such as cancer of the throat or paralysis of the vocal cords;
- Any medical conditions that make it difficult to cough up throat secretions (the natural way of clearing the airway), and therefore require that the windpipe be suctioned artificially;
- Emergency situations where breathing is impaired;
- In preparation for a major surgery to the neck or head; and
- If a person suffers a severe head or neck trauma and therefore cannot breathe on their own without assistance.
TRACHEOSTOMY CARE IN NURSING HOMES
If a person has a tracheostomy in a nursing home, it is likely that the hole and the use of a trach tube are permanent, and that the person is unable to breathe on their own or/and remove debris and secretions from their throat on their own. This means that should any complications with the tracheostomy or trach tube occur, the individual could be at risk of severe harm, or even death. As such, nursing home caregivers have an enhanced duty of care to ensure that these patients receive property tracheostomy services, including inspecting and cleaning tubes.
When improper care of tracheostomy patients is administered, a number of complications are possible. One of the most dangerous complications is a clogged tube.
CLOGGED TRACH TUBES & NURSING HOME NEGLECT
One of the most dangerous complications of a tracheostomy that nursing home staff need to be aware of, and take actions to mitigate, is that of a clogged trach tube. When a breathing tube becomes clogged with mucus, saliva, or any other materials, the ability for the nursing home resident to breathe through the tube can be severely impaired. To make matters worse, the nursing home resident is often unable to signal for help or communicate that they are having trouble breathing, leaving them to literally suffocate without any help. If the clog and oxygen deprivation is not fatal, it can lead to long-term or permanent complications, including organ failure, psychological harm from the trauma, and brain damage.
Clogged breathing tubes occur as a result of neglect; while mucus and other material build up may be unpreventable in a tube and form naturally, nursing homes are responsible for inspecting tubes, making sure that the tubes are clear and cleaning them if not, and constantly monitoring patient breathing in order to prevent oxygen deprivation.
In addition to clogged breathing tubes, other preventable complications regarding tracheostomies include infection in the trachea, and removal of the tracheostomy tube (accidental decannulation). Those patients who are elderly, are immunocompromised, or have chronic conditions or respiratory infections are at a greater risk of complication.
WHY IMPROPER TRACHEOSTOMY CARE OCCURS
It is rare that a nursing home staff member, nurse, doctor, or other specialist intentionally performs improper tracheostomy care. Instead, improper care typically is a result of:
- Unacceptable staff to patient ratios, physically preventing nursing home staff members from providing each patient with the care that they deserve;
- Poor training programs that fail to address handing patients off with shift changes, ensuring that all patients are monitored, or training health professionals how to care for patients with tracheostomies; and
- Improper nursing home management and oversight.
THE EFFECTS OF IMPROPER TRACHEOSTOMY CARE CAN BE DEVASTATING
The effects of improper tracheostomy care can be devastating. Not only are most complications completely preventable, but when they do occur, the affected elderly person may suffer significant harm or suffer from fatal complications. Surviving family members may be shocked by the event, emotionally devastated, and confused about why the event occurred and what they should do next.
OUR EXPERIENCED NURSING HOME NEGLECT AND MALPRACTICE ATTORNEYS CAN HELP
At the offices of the Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm LLC, we strongly support comprehensive patient care, training practices, and sound staff to patient ratios within a nursing home. Further, we hope that you never have to call our law firm for legal assistance, because your loved one will never be in a situation where they are a victim of nursing home abuse, neglect, or malpractice.
If improper tracheostomy care has occurred, however, our lawyers can help you to explore your legal options and take action. To learn more about nursing home neglect civil suits, please contact our law offices today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation. Our team can be reached online or by phone, and we promise to return your inquiry promptly.