It’s a nightmare scenario for any family member: you learn that your elderly loved one in nursing home care has been injured, or worse, has died as a result of choking. Unfortunately, this is an all too common occurrence in nursing homes across the country as the elderly frequently encounter problems swallowing food for a variety of reasons. As a family member, it’s important to be aware of the dangers of nursing home choking and to know what to do if your loved one has been harmed as a result of this type of neglect.
Nearly all incidents of death by choking are preventable, which means if your loved has died (or nearly died) of choking in a nursing home, it is likely due to nursing home neglect. The attorneys at Cullotta Bravo Law Firm can help you hold accountable those who are/were responsible for your loved one’s care. Contact us today at 630-898-7800.
Why Nursing Home Choking Occurs
Choking is the fourth-leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and more than half of choking fatalities occur in individuals over age 74 simply because we are more prone to swallowing problems as we age. Because of the increased risk, it’s essential for nursing home caregivers to be vigilant in monitoring patients with swallowing problems, especially while they are eating. Unfortunately, between under staffing and simple carelessness and neglect, choking incidents occur in nursing homes far more often than they should–and in many cases, the choking patient isn’t noticed until it’s too late.
Common Causes of Nursing Home Choking
There are numerous ways that nursing home patients may be prone to choking, especially if they are not properly monitored. Let’s look at a few of the most common.
Elderly patients often suffer from various medical conditions which make them more likely to choke. These include, among others:
- Dysphagia: a condition that makes it difficult to swallow
- Dementia: which can cause patients to forget how to chew or swallow properly
- Parkinson’s disease: which can affect muscle control and make swallowing difficult
- Stroke: which can damage the nerves and muscles needed for swallowing
Patients who suffer from medical ailments like these must be carefully supervised, especially when eating.
Improperly Prepared Food
In some cases, the way food is prepared can cause a nursing home choking incident. If food is not cut up properly or if it is served in a way that makes it more difficult to chew and swallow (such as chewy meat), some patients may be more likely to choke on it. Additionally, certain patients will have specific dietary requirements (e.g., soft foods only). If the nursing staff mix up dinner plates and the patient gets the wrong food, they could choke on it.
Dehydration is another common problem among patients in nursing homes (and another sign of neglect or abuse). If a patient isn’t getting enough fluids, they may struggle to make enough saliva to process the food they eat, increasing the risk that food will stick in the throat and cause a choking incident.
Certain medicines include difficulty swallowing as a side effect, especially if administered in the wrong dosages. Medication errors like these can increase choking risks. Likewise, if a patient receives medicine to improve swallowing function and misses a dose, the risk of choking goes up.
Watch for These Danger Signs of Choking Risks in Nursing Homes
Obviously, if your loved one has a choking incident in the nursing home, you already have a problem and may need legal help. However, there are sometimes telltale signs that a patient is at increased risk for choking, and if you notice these signs, you may be able to take action before your loved one’s life is put at risk. These include:
- Signs of dehydration (e.g., your loved one is constantly thirsty, has dry mouth, urinates infrequently).
- Your loved one expresses difficulty swallowing food or is hesitant to eat.
- Caregivers don’t check on your loved one as often as they should.
- You notice that your loved one’s food is not being cut up properly or that they are being given the wrong diet.
Nursing Home Choking Attorney in Aurora, Illinois
If you suspect that your loved one is in danger of choking due to nursing home neglect, contacting a nursing home attorney could prevent unnecessary death. If you have already lost a loved one due to nursing home choking, you may also be eligible for compensation. The attorneys at Cullotta Bravo Law Firm can help help you hold the nursing home accountable. Call us today at 630-225-8341 or contact us online.