Yes, you can hold a nursing home liable for feeding tube injuries that harm your loved one. Feeding tubes deliver food, fluids, and medications to the elderly and ensure they do not breathe these products into their airways or lungs and contract aspiration pneumonia. In addition, they are effective at relieving gas, nausea, and vomiting.
A feeding tube can improve an individual’s quality of life when used under the right circumstances. However, these tubes may also pose an increased risk for severe or fatal injuries, especially when placed incorrectly, break, or become clogged or dislodged. A nursing home abuse and neglect attorney can review what happened and determine if you have a claim against the facility.
Why Feeding Tubes Are Sometimes Necessary
Nursing home residents supported by feeding tubes typically cannot (or will not) feed themselves or consume solid food. For example, residents affected by head, neck, or esophageal cancers, strokes, paralysis, or brain trauma might be unable to eat normally. In addition, dementia patients may benefit from feeding tubes because chewing and swallowing difficulties tend to increase as the disease progresses.
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Risks and Potential Complications With Feeding Tubes
Doctors typically place feeding tubes into the nose or through a small incision that leads into the small intestine or stomach.
Unfortunately, benefits aside, feeding tubes can pose several risks to the elderly. These complications can include:
- Aspiration (food breathed into the lungs)
- Refeeding syndrome (dangerous electrolyte imbalances)
- Infection or skin irritation at the tube insertion site
- Tube dislodgement
- Broken tube or leakage
- Nausea and vomiting
- Clogging due to improper tube flushing
When Nursing Homes Are Liable for Feeding Tube Negligence
In addition to the risks and complications already addressed, many blatant, preventable, and dangerous errors occur when nursing home residents have a feeding tube inserted.
Medication Administration Errors
One must not assume that delivering oral medications through a feeding tube is safe. For example, mixing crushed tablets or pills for tube administration can have unpredictable results. Likewise, the absorption rate of a drug can also affect the safety and effectiveness of enteral delivery.
Tragically, egregious errors regarding medication and feeding tubes can lead to severe and potentially lethal complications.
A nurse or qualified staff member must properly flush feeding tubes before and after feeding to prevent clogging. If a tube becomes obstructed, the resident will probably require emergency surgery.
Other complications nursing home residents can incur from a blocked feeding tube include dehydration and denial of necessary sustenance or medication. Unfortunately, liquid feedings are sometimes administered without flushing beforehand to save time or effort.
Poorly Placed or Dislodged Tube
An incorrectly positioned tube can have lethal consequences. For example, a tube placed in the bronchial tree could cause the resident to be fed into the lungs. This mistake can lead to the person contracting sepsis and dying.
Similarly, if a feeding tube becomes dislodged while moving a resident, staff may force it back into position without notifying the overseeing physician. Unfortunately, this action can result in the tube being misplaced and potentially result in malnutrition, dehydration, injury, or death.
Feeding Tubes May Not Prolong or Improve Life
While feeding tubes can benefit some residents, they also have intrinsic dangers. In many cases, hand-feeding nursing home residents would be more appropriate, but this rarely happens. Instead, facilities find it less expensive to place a person on a feeding tube than to feed them manually. For example, a 2003 study showed that residents in urban, for-profit nursing homes with more than 100 beds were much more likely to have feeding tubes inserted.
Unfortunately, large nursing homes are more likely to be understaffed, meaning that workers have little time to hand-feed residents, even when it would be less invasive and more appropriate. Nursing homes can also charge significantly higher rates for feeding tubes covered by medical insurance.
Research has also found that tube feeding may not significantly improve or extend a person’s life. For example, a 1998 study revealed the mortality rate for patients with a stomach-placed feeding (PEG) tube was 63% after one year. For these reasons, it’s critical for residents and their loved ones to understand why a feeding tube might be medically necessary, preferable to hand-feeding, and that the potential benefits outweigh the risks.
Recoverable Damages for Nursing Home Negligence
If you or a loved one becomes a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect resulting from a feeding tube injury, you could file a claim in civil court for injury-related losses. These damages include:
- Medical expenses
- Emergency care
- Hospitalization and surgeries
- Doctors’ visits
- Physical therapy
- Counseling or psychotherapy
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional anguish
Consult With a Nursing Home Negligence Attorney Today
Brown & Barron, LLC, can represent you or a loved one who has suffered injuries as a result of feeding tube-related negligence. In addition, we work tirelessly on behalf of vulnerable people, such as nursing home residents who have been harmed by these facilities’ careless and often callous actions.
So, contact us today for a free and confidential consultation regarding your nursing home abuse and neglect case.
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