CHICAGO NURSING HOME NEGLIGENCE LAWYERS

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Choking Injuries in Nursing Homes

Nursing homes help residents with activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, and taking care of themselves. Some elderly residents need special care, like mobility assistance for those that have trouble walking. For someone with swallowing issues, special diets and extra prep at meal times can help lessen the risk of choking. Old age-related changes, health conditions, and general weakness can lead to a person having swallowing difficulties. This is known as dysphagia, and it makes eating and drinking very difficult for those afflicted. Nursing homes and their staff should be aware of these common issues in residents and do what they can to prevent choking. Unfortunately, negligence and abuse can lead to choking injuries in nursing homes. If your loved one has been injured due to choking in a nursing home, contact the personal injury lawyers at the Curcio Law Offices today. Our experienced injury attorneys can help determine the true cause of the injury and hold the negligent parties accountable for their actions. For a free consultation in your case, call us today at (312) 321-1111.

choking injuries in nursing homes

How Common is Choking in Nursing Homes?

Thousands of people die each year from choking. In fact, choking is the fourth most common cause of unintentional injury death. In 2020, 3,000 people died from choking. Nearly half of these people were 75 years old or older. Swallowing disorders are common ailments among nursing home residents. This disorder, known as dysphagia, can lead to choking and choking-related injuries in nursing home residents.

What Causes Choking in Nursing Home Residents?

Dysphagia may be a fancy name for a swallowing disorder, but the cause of choking in nursing homes can’t be attributed to a single condition. Choking can be caused by other medical conditions, dental problems, the food itself, or a mixture of all these things. Dysphagia affects the muscles in the neck, mouth, and throat that are used when swallowing. Even mild dysphagia can cause swallowing problems and increase choking risks. Missing teeth or poorly fitting dentures can cause chewing and swallowing problems in older adults. Older adults often have problems producing saliva, which normally helps break down food and helps you swallow. Health conditions like a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and Sjogren’s syndrome can also affect swallowing. Brain damage to the swallowing center of the brain (medulla oblongata) can result in life-long difficulty.

Food choices can also be a significant cause of choking injuries in nursing homes. Adults with difficulty swallowing are often given a special diet of food with soft textures that won’t block their airway. Eating foods that are the wrong texture increases the risk of choking, and therefore increases the risk of choking-related injuries.

choking injuries

What Kind of Injuries Can Choking Cause?

Choking can be a harrowing experience for anyone involved. Nursing homes have staff available ready to handle choking episodes. Unfortunately, choking can cause injuries no matter how quickly the episode is resolved. Suffocation and aspiration pneumonia are two of the biggest risks of choking.

Suffocation

Choking on food or liquid blocks the airway, resulting in a lack of oxygen. A choking victim can lose consciousness in one to two minutes, and brain damage can happen in as little as four minutes. Oxygen deprivation can result in a loss of cognitive function after the person awakens. If the airway isn’t cleared, choking can easily cause death.

Aspiration Pneumonia

Aspiration pneumonia happens when food or liquid ends up in the lungs instead of being swallowed. Aspiration pneumonia is often life-threatening in elderly adults. In fact, aspiration pneumonia accounts for 70% of deaths in Parkinson’s patients. The food or liquid inhaled can cause a severe lung infection and cause a lot of pain for the patient. Aspiration pneumonia can even happen without food or water–inhaling vomit or saliva can cause the same issues. Normally when you swallow food or water and end up inhaling it, you can cough it out. Many people experience this as food or liquid going down “the wrong pipe.” Many older people simply don’t have the muscle strength to cough up what they aspirated. This is why it’s important for the staff in nursing homes and long-term care facilities to have the proper training to watch out for these kinds of issues.

choking in the elderly

How to Help a Choking Senior

Most people know about CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and the Heimlich maneuver, but most have probably never had to use it before. Nursing home staff should be well-trained to handle almost any situation that arises. This includes knowing what to do when an elderly person is choking. Clearing the airway is the most important thing to do.

Start with leaning the person forward to prevent the object from going further into the trachea. With the palm of your hand, administer five blows between the shoulder blades. If this doesn’t work, move on to the Heimlich maneuver.

The Heimlich maneuver can dislodge the food or object with abdominal thrusts. Standing behind the choking victim, place a fist against their navel and wrap your other hand around the fist and pull sharply upwards.

If the choking victim falls unconscious, begin CPR. Move the victim safely to the floor and lift their chin to open the airway. Pinch their nose shut and blow air into their mouth for one second. Push hard and fast on the middle of the chest to perform chest compressions. These should be at the rate of around 100 beats per minute. Perform 30 compressions and perform two more rescue breaths.

No matter the outcome of a choking event, call 911 immediately. Nursing home residents should get a full health evaluation after every choking incident to rule out aspiration pneumonia and other injuries.

elderly choking

How to Prevent Choking in Elderly Nursing Home Residents

Nursing homes often have to take special nutritional considerations when it comes to residents who have poor or reduced swallowing function. Nursing homes should reduce the amount of choking hazards on a patient’s diet. Residents may need to be put on a special diet consisting of thickened liquids and pureed foods to prevent choking. Thin liquids like water or juice can travel too quickly down the throat and increase the risk of aspiration. Thickened liquids are easier to control and have a decreased risk of aspiration.

For other residents, taking small bites and avoiding thin liquids may be enough to reduce their risk. Taking small sips of beverages and avoiding dry foods can help older residents avoid choking as well.

Is Choking a Sign of Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse?

Choking in and of itself may not be a sign of nursing home abuse and neglect. After all, accidents can happen to everyone. Choking injuries along with other things can be a warning flag for abuse. If your loved one is in a senior living facility, it’s important to check on them regularly and be aware of any signs that could indicate abuse or neglect. Some of these signs include:

  • Sudden changes in behavior or mood
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fearful around certain staff members
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Certain food avoidance without reason
  • Multiple choking episodes
  • Failure to perform necessary first-aid on choking victim
  • High turnover rate in staffing
  • Understaffing in the facility

At Curcio Law Offices, our attorneys are standing by and ready to help you with any questions you may have. If you suspect an elderly loved one is being abused but the health professionals are meant to care for them, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

how to prevent choking in elderly

How the Nursing Home Injury Attorneys at Curcio Law Offices Can Help

Our personal injury lawyers are knowledgeable in both mediation and trial. We can fight for maximum compensation in your case. If your loved one was injured in a choking episode while living in an assisted living facility, our attorneys can help you recover the compensation you deserve. Working with a team of experienced nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers can increase your chances of getting justice against negligent care facilities.

Nursing Home Liability

Nursing homes should be held accountable for the decisions they make that result in injuries to their residents. Nursing homes have to uphold a certain standard of care, including properly staffing and training staff members in their facilities. Without adequate staffing and resources, an employee may not be able to devote the care and attention that each resident deserves. Poor hiring practices can result in employees with a history of negligence to work with residents. After an incident, nursing homes often try to distance themselves and blame the employees or supervisors who were on duty. At Curcio Law Offices, we know the true fault lies within the facility itself, and we have the knowledge and experience to prove it.

Compensation in a Nursing Home Choking Lawsuit

At Curcio Law Offices, our specialized attorneys fight for economic damages, non-economic damages, and punitive damages. This includes:

  • Lost wages for family members that had to take time off work
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Past and future medical bills
  • Emotional distress
  • Punitive damages
  • Funeral and burial expenses if the injury results in a wrongful death
heimlich maneuver lawsuit

Contact the Nursing Home Choking Injury Lawyers at Curcio Law Offices Today

At Curcio Law Offices, our experienced team has created a legacy of commitment and excellence. The Curcio Law Offices were founded in 1957, and our attorneys have been serving the Chicago area for more than sixty years. If your loved one was involved in a choking injury in a nursing home, contact us online or call us at (312) 321-1111.