When we think of choking risks, we often think of babies. However, the elderly are also prone to choking injuries. Swallowing food can be difficult and unfortunately, many nursing home residents die of choking injuries because employees pay little attention to swallowing issues and dietary restrictions.
Nursing home residents need to be monitored carefully. Some take longer to eat than others. Some may attempt to steal food from others and then choke on it as they attempt to swallow it. If your loved one died from choking at a nursing home, the nursing home staff could be held liable. Contact a Chicago nursing home lawyer with Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. at (312) 236-2900 to learn more.
Understanding Choking Hazards
Choking issues are often a result of various medical conditions. These include:
- Aging – It takes 50 pairs of nerves and muscles to swallow, which means that the wear and tear from decades of use can lead to choking.
- Cancer – Certain types of cancer, as well as radiation treatment, can make it easy to choke.
- Alzheimer’s disease – Eating and swallowing become more difficult as the disease progresses.
- Neurological disorders – Spinal cord issues, brain damage, muscular dystrophy, and multiple sclerosis can negatively affect the ability to swallow.
- Breathing tubes – Improper maintenance can lead to brain damage or death.
- Loose dentures – These can make it hard to eat, which means that are often removed when eating. Since you can’t chew without teeth, you are more susceptible to choking.
Foods to Avoid
Many foods are choking hazards due to their size and consistency. Nursing home patients and other seniors should avoid eating the following foods:
- Apples and large chunks of fruit
- Bone-in chicken
- Hot dogs
- Chunks of meat, such as steak
- Hard candy
- Dry foods like crackers and rice cakes
- Peanut butter
Even drinking water can lead to a choking hazard because the fluid is thin. In fact, many nursing homes use special agents to thicken it.
Elderly throats are often dry due to lack of saliva, aging, and other issues. Nursing homes often fail to take this into consideration. Many staff members rush their patients through meals, and the lack of time to eat can cause choking.
In addition, many facilities are often short-handed. One employee may be caring for 10 or more patients. The employee may not be familiar with each patient’s medical orders as some patients may need to avoid certain foods altogether.
Many employees are unqualified to work in nursing homes. They may not be trained to perform the Heimlich maneuver, and some simply do not have the personality and skills to work with the elderly.
When a person chokes, the food enters the windpipe instead of the esophagus. Quick thinking and assistance is needed in order to save the person’s life. After a few minutes, the patient can suffer from irreversible brain damage. Some even die. Nursing home employees must be able to identify when a patient is choking and act quickly.
These actions are considered negligence on behalf of the nursing home. Nursing homes have a duty to hire qualified professionals to care for their patients. Unfortunately, many facilities focus more on making money rather than providing quality care.
While swallowing food is easy for most people, it can be difficult for the elderly. Many employees do not consider this and assume that patients can eat anything they are served. The facility can be held liable if they fail to abide by dietary restrictions and pay attention to patients when they are eating.
Getting Legal Help
If your loved one was hurt or even dies as a result of choking on food served at a nursing home, the facility could be liable. You may be able to receive compensation for your loved one’s wrongful death.
The Chicago nursing home lawyers at Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C. can assess the situation and determine if you are within your legal rights to file a claim. We’ll take care of the legal process during this stressful time. While money can’t bring back your loved one, it can make your situation a little easier.
Call us for more information at (312) 236-2900.