The risk of choking and suffocation increases with age, and nursing home administrators and staffers should know how to detect and minimize the risk of these potentially fatal occurrences. If they do not, then they may be liable for any serious injury or death that results when residents experience choking and suffocation in nursing homes. Call our team today to discuss how we can help you and your loved one.
The Risk of Choking and Suffocation Are Greater in Elderly Adults
Elderly adults are at a greater risk of many health ailments, including susceptibility to choking and suffocation in nursing homes.
Suffocation deaths and the elderly is the third-leading cause of unintentional death in those aged 85 and older making it a greater risk than motor vehicle accidents, according to the Office of Analysis and Epidemiology.
Statistically, deaths involving suffocation occur more than any other cause of death in hospitals and nursing homes.
Along with suffocation, choking is also a greater threat to elderly adults. More than half of the victims of choking deaths in the United States in 2015 were older than 74, reports the National Safety Council. Among elderly adults, some specific characteristics represent an even greater risk of choking and suffocation in a nursing home or assisted living facility.
Individual Risk Factors for Choking and Suffocation in Elderly Adults
As we age, the muscles in our throat and esophagus weaken, making it more difficult to swallow food. This makes us more susceptible to choking and suffocating over time.
Some additional factors that may increase the risks of choking include:
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Degenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease
- Neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy
- Having few teeth, no teeth, or dentures, which can make chewing difficult
- Having poor posture, which may increase the risk of food becoming lodged in the airway
- Dry mouth caused by medications
- Dysphagia, the medical term for excessive difficulty swallowing
All nursing homes should train their administrators and staff on how to treat residents with any condition that poses a greater risk of choking or suffocation. Lacking such knowledge constitutes one of the many forms of negligence that could result in residents choking and suffocating in nursing homes.
Forms of Negligence That Increase the Risk of Choking and Suffocation in Nursing Homes
The responsibility to care for nursing home residents starts at the top, with administrators who make macro decisions about how caregivers administer care. Administrators can make several decisions or fail to take action in ways that may be negligent, including:
- Failing to maintain a safe number of caregivers on duty at all time, a problem that can prove fatal (According to PBS, most nursing homes are not adequately staffed)
- Failing to properly vet job applicants, which can result in underqualified or dangerous employees presiding directly over residents
- Failing to properly train and retrain caregivers at regular intervals, especially when it comes to emergency response scenarios
- Failing to maintain technology-assisted monitoring systems, namely a functional network of cameras
- Failing to implement a clear, comprehensive schedule for caregivers to follow
If administrators do not present a clear caregiving plan for staff to follow, then they are putting residents at a heightened risk of choking or suffocation in nursing homes. The law also holds direct caregivers responsible for knowing how to minimize the risk of residents choking or suffocating and how to respond if a resident does begin to choke or cannot breathe.
Potential Forms of Negligence Among Administrators and Direct Caregivers
Nursing home caregivers may act—or fail to act—in ways that directly increase residents’ risk of suffocation or choking in nursing homes. Some forms of negligence may include:
- Failing to insist on comprehensive training, especially for emergency situations
- Failing to adhere to a consistent schedule
- Failing to monitor the residents under their care regularly
Feeding is an activity where elderly residents may be at a heightened risk of choking or suffocation in nursing homes. Caregivers may increase a resident’s risk of choking by:
- Failing to cut food into adequately small portions
- Failing to prop the resident into an upward sitting position before beginning feeding
- Rushing the resident as he or she eats
- Failing to familiarize oneself with the individual resident’s risk factors for choking or asphyxia (suffocation)
- Failing to know how to respond if choking or asphyxia (also known as a suffocation attack) does occur
Both administrators and caregivers could be liable when choking or suffocation occurs in residents, especially if such instances lead to a resident’s death.
For a free legal consultation, call 800-934-6555
Finding Liability for Choking or Suffocation in Nursing Homes
Depending on the circumstances of the incident, a nursing home could be at fault for any choking or suffocation that a resident suffers. A lawyer may be able to help the families of nursing home residents who have endured these incidences by:
- Meeting with your loved one to document their account of events
- Initiating legal action immediately
- Requesting cooperation from the nursing home to interview administrators, staffers, and any witnesses to the accident
- Collecting available evidence—such as videotape—of the incident
- Handling all the legal responsibilities of your case
- Ensuring that your loved one’s rights are protected
Call Our Team Today
Our team of attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm aims to ensure that your loved one suffers no additional harm. Our clients pay nothing upfront or out of pocket, and we only collect a fee if we secure an award on your behalf. Call our team today to discuss how we can help you and your loved one.