While elderly adults may have a susceptibility to health hazards such as choking, their risk of harm increases if a nursing home staff is underqualified, poorly trained, inconsistent in its care, or at fault for other forms of neglect.
Recognizing Signs of Neglect
Neglect and abuse can occur whenever a caregiver fails to protect his or her charge from reasonably foreseeable harm. This means that neglect can take many forms. Common forms of neglect that can contribute to choking in nursing homes include not responsibly monitoring nursing home residents, rushing residents as they eat, and not ensuring their meals are cut into small enough pieces to chew. Potential signs that your loved one is suffering from neglect while living in a nursing home may include:
- The appearance of bedsores, which may indicate that caretakers are not administering regular cleanings
- A messy, disheveled appearance, such as unbrushed hair and dirty clothes
- Unexplained weight loss, which may indicate that caregivers are not properly feeding your loved one
- Poor personal hygiene
- Abnormal thirst, which may mean that caregivers are not administering water regularly
If you notice any of these symptoms occurring with your loved one living in a nursing home, it is critical that you notify nursing home administrators of your concerns. If problematic signs of possible neglect persist, continued neglect can lead to serious health conditions and even death.
Certain Forms of Neglect Can Lead to Death by Choking
Perhaps you have witnessed a scary situation that made you realize your loved one is susceptible to choking. Signs of choking in a victim may include:
- A panicked facial expression
- No audible breath
- Gripping at the throat area
- Barely audible sounds—like dry heaving—that may indicate a blocked airway
- Abnormally noisy breathing
- Coughing, especially shallow coughing that appears to originate in the throat
- A blue or gray appearance on the skin, lips, or face
- Loss of consciousness
Recognizing any of these symptoms of choking allows you to respond more quickly. The proper steps for assisting a choking victim are:
- Give five blows to the choking victim’s back: place one hand on the choking person’s chest for support, bend the choking victim over to keep his or her upper body parallel with the ground, and use the heel of your hand to administer five strong, open-handed pats.
- Perform the Heimlich maneuver: wrap your hand around your closed fist, place it over the choking person’s abdominal region, and perform five thrusts
- Alternate between these two maneuvers: keep alternating until the item is dislodged
All nursing home staff should know how to perform these maneuvers, as well as how to administer care to reduce the risk of choking in the first place.
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Negligence by Caregivers Can Cause a Greater Risk of Choking
By law, caregivers must provide consistent, attentive, and empathetic care to the residents of nursing homes. Failure to provide this level of care increases the risk of your loved one succumbing to a choking episode and subsequent injury. There are additional forms of neglect that could increase your loved one’s risk of choking. Common forms of neglect that can contribute to choking in nursing homes include:
- Failing to regularly monitor your loved one
- Not properly cutting up food
- Providing foods that are difficult to swallow and therefore pose a greater risk of becoming lodged in the throat
- Urging your loved one to finish their meal quickly as they eat
- Failing to place your loved one in an upward posture before feeding them
The nursing home may also place their caretakers in an untenable position, which causes unsafe eating conditions for your loved one. This may include:
- Failing to vet staff members for essential certifications and training
- Failing to provide an adequate number of caregivers on each shift, directly resulting in long periods during which your loved one is not monitored
- Failing to train staff properly on procedures aimed to prevent choking
- Failing to train staff on how to respond if choking occurs
If your loved one suffered injury or death because of choking, then consider whether a staff member or nursing home was at fault.
A Lawyer May Assist You if Nursing Home Negligence Led to a Choking Incident
If your loved one suffered a choking incident while living in a nursing home, a lawyer may help you mount a civil case in pursuit of financial awards. Our team at the Pintas & Mullins Law Firm wants to ensure that your loved one suffers no further harm, and we may:
- Meet with your loved one to document their account of events
- Initiate legal action immediately to abide by any relevant statutes of limitation
- Alert the nursing home to your case and request permission to interview administrators, staff, and other residents when appropriate
- Handle all legal responsibilities necessary to your claim
- Ensure that your loved one’s rights are protected
If you suspect a nursing home or caregiver neglected to operate with due care and doing so led to your loved one choking, then we may be able to help you seek awards for your loved one’s pain and suffering. Call Pintas & Mullins Law Firm at (800) 201-3999 to discuss your situation. You pay nothing upfront or out of pocket, and we do not charge a fee unless we secure awards for your losses.