Choking presents a significant risk to elderly adults. Every nursing home has a responsibility not only to respond promptly when choking occurs but also to create conditions that minimize residents’ risk of choking. There are several ways that nursing homes may contribute to a choking accident that may allow for the worst possible outcome by failing to respond in an urgent, appropriate fashion. There are several things you should know about choking accidents in nursing homes. This knowledge can help you protect an elderly loved one.
Elderly Adults Have a Greater Risk of Choking
Several age-related changes to the human body increase the risk of choking in elderly adults.
The muscles that allow us to swallow weaken over time, leading to more instances of
age-related changes to eating and swallowing such as difficulty swallowing, choking, and aspirating.
In addition to the general weakening of muscles in the throat and esophagus, elderly adults may experience other factors that increase the risks of choking, including:
- Degenerative diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease
- Neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy
- Dry mouth from medications, which may make it more difficult to swallow
- Gastroesophageal and gastrointestinal disorders
- Dentures or few teeth, which may lead to bulky pieces of food becoming lodged in the airway
- Poor posture, which may contribute to food becoming lodged in the airway
Elderly adults generally experience an increased risk of suffering several health complications, choking among them. Due to these increased risks, nursing home administrators and staff have a responsibility to reduce the opportunities for choking incidents. When they do not take preventative steps or react improperly when choking occurs, the result may be fatal.
What to Know About Choking Accidents in Nursing Homes
Nursing home administrators and caregivers make up the first line of defense for residents having a choking incident. If administrators do not know how to handle choking accidents in nursing homes or make decisions that do not uphold a high standard of care, residents’ risk of choking and subsequent damages can skyrocket.
Forms of Negligence Among Nursing Home Administrators
Administrators make most of the major decisions affecting how a nursing home is run and, in turn, how the staff cares for its residents. Most nursing homes are not adequately staffed and some forms of negligence that administrators may be liable for include:
- Failing to keep adequate staff on duty for all shifts (understaffing presents a problem in nursing homes that poses great risks to residents)
- Failing to implement and keep functional a robust system of cameras and other monitoring devices to detect issues, especially in the absence of a caregiver
- Failing to maintain a rigid, non-negotiable caregiving schedule that staff follows without exception
- Failing to properly vet employees, both in terms of qualification and a clean behavioral history
- Failing to train and retrain all employees at regular intervals
- Failing to implement a culture of empathetic care
Administrators often set the tone for the level of care in a nursing home, and they must assume full responsibility for your loved one’s health. On-site caregivers, however, must also assume responsibility for the health and well-being of nursing home residents and that includes ensuring they know about choking accidents in nursing homes and how to handle them.
Forms of Neglect Among Direct Caregivers
Negligent choices and actions of administrators like not knowing how to handle choking accidents in nursing homes, may place caregivers in positions in which they cannot provide proper care. But each caregiver should insist that his or her administrator provides necessary training before taking responsibility for nursing home residents. Caregivers may still act negligently by:
- Failing to request additional training if they feel that they are not prepared for certain aspects of their job
- Taking the job under false pretenses, such as claiming that they have emergency training when they do not
- Failing to adhere to caregiving schedules
- Failing to monitor residents at regular intervals properly
- Failing to inquire about residents’ wellbeing
- Failing to carry out the many duties for which a direct caregiver is responsible
Nursing home caregivers are responsible for feeding residents safely—an activity during which the risk of choking increases exponentially. A nursing home caregiver may directly or indirectly increase a resident’s risk of choking by:
- Failing to adjust the resident’s posture so that he or she is upright before beginning to eat
- Failing to cut up food into small portions
- Failing to assist the resident when necessary during the eating process
- Not being aware of residents’ individual choking risk factors
- Urging the resident to eat quickly or to eat food too big to swallow safely
- Failing to act urgently when choking does occur, including any failure to administer back blows and abdominal thrusts
- Failing to alert other staff members of a resident’s choking incident
For a free legal consultation, call 800-934-6555
If Your Loved One Has a Choking Incident in a Nursing Home, You May Be Eligible for Awards
A lawyer may be able to help you if your loved one suffered a choking incident in a nursing home, regardless of the outcome of his or her choking incident. If administrators do not know about choking accidents in nursing homes, or staff acts in a negligent way, then your loved one or your family may seek financial awards from the nursing home.
Call Our Team Today to Discuss Your Case
Our team at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm wants to ensure that your loved one suffers no additional harm, and we want to help your family receive the awards it deserves for any negligence on the part of the nursing home administrators or caregivers. Call us today, as time may be a factor in your ability to collect financial awards. Our clients pay nothing out of pocket or upfront, and we only collect a fee if we secure awards in your favor.