Clogged Breathing Tubes in Nursing Homes
What Are Breathing Tubes Used For in Nursing Homes?
Medical staff uses endotracheal tubes, or breathing tubes, to open a patient’s airway and increase oxygen intake. The tubes are usually attached to ventilators, or breathing machines, to keep oxygen intake consistent.
If a nursing home doctor, nurse or other staff member fails to properly insert or monitor the tube, serious suffocation and choking risks can arise.
Reasons to Use a Breathing Tube
If your loved one experiences breathing difficulties due to medical conditions such as pneumonia, asthma or COPD, he or she may require the occasional short-term use of breathing tubes and ventilators.
Even if your loved one does not have one of these conditions, staff may need to insert a breathing tube into his or her trachea, or wind pipe, for one of the following reasons:
- To increase the amount of oxygen your loved one takes in
- To clear mucus out of your loved one’s lungs
- To keep your loved one’s wind pipe open
If your loved one continues to experience breathing difficulties, his or her care staff may choose to remove the breathing tube and perform a tracheotomy. This procedure involves creating a small hole in the neck that will keep the airway open.
How Does a Breathing Tube Gets Clogged?
Food can enter the tube from either end. Saliva or phlegm may also find its way in. Under normal care and supervision, staff would remove any obstruction and no harm would occur to your loved one.
However, in situations where a nursing home is understaffed or the existing staff is negligent, either by design or through improper training, these obstructions can lead to oxygen deprivation or cardiac arrest.
Severe clogged breathing tube cases lead to:
- Permanent brain damage
- Early mortality
- And even death
Other Complications or Injuries Caused by Breathing Tubes
Breathing tubes can cause various illnesses and injuries when nursing staff improperly inserts, monitors or removes the tube from a patient.
In addition to clogging, breathing tubes can lead to:
- Spinal cord or vertebrae injury
- Trauma to lips, teeth or tongue
- Vocal cord injury
- Nasal trauma
- Pulmonary aspiration
- Hypertension or arrhythmia
- Airway perforation
How You Can Help Your Loved One
Breathing tubes remove the ability to speak and eat or drink, which results in your loved one relying heavily on nursing home staff for:
- Day-to-day care
- And nutrition
As your loved one’s ability to communicate is greatly limited during this time, there are several things you can do to help ensure that he or she receives the best care possible. The best thing you can do for your loved one is be present and aware.
Watch your loved one’s behavior. Encourage him or her to write notes about how the tube feels and whether anything else is bothering them.
You should also check in often with nursing staff. Ask questions and review the intake of fluids and nutrients to avoid becoming dehydrated.
Request that the staff checks the tubes for any potential blockages or related problems while you are visiting. Your loved one will benefit from this level of attention and care.