Mealtimes can become deadly when nursing homes do not properly supervise or monitor the food intake of their patients. Many elderly and disabled persons have difficulty swallowing and must be on restrictive diets to prevent choking on their food. When nursing homes neglect to enforce diet restrictions or do not watch for difficulties swallowing in susceptible patients, there is a risk of choking and even death.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC regularly prosecutes choking and asphyxiation cases against nursing facilities. Our office has two nurses on staff which allows us to evaluate your nursing case quickly and fully prosecute the matter when there is evidence of negligence. Contact our nursing home neglect attorneys for a free case review.
Prevalence of Conditions Contributing to Swallowing Disorders
Swallowing disorders are prevalent amongst elderly and disabled patients. It takes 50 pairs of muscles and nerves to allow a person to swallow and many different conditions can affect a person’s ability to swallow. Some disorders that can interfere with swallowing are:
- Neurological disorders. Many neurological disorders can have an impact on swallowing, such as multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson’s disease.
- Neurological damage. Strokes and brain or spinal injuries can affect a person’s ability to swallow.
- Alzheimer’s disease. Late stage Alzheimer’s patients can often have difficulty swallowing and eating.
- Cancer. Certain types of cancers can lead to swallowing issues as well as the treatment of cancer, such as radiation.
- Aging. General wear and tear on the throat muscles over time can make it difficult for the elderly to swallow. Elderly are also more likely to have other ailments that hinder swallowing.
Choking Prevention Techniques to be Employed By Nursing Facilities
In a nursing home setting, patients that are having difficulty swallowing will generally be examined by a physician to determine the issue. The physician will then make a recommendation on what types of food the patient can eat and in what form. These should be put on the nursing home patients chart so that all caregivers are aware of their special needs.
If the patient with the swallowing disorder is allowed foods or medications that the physician restricted or is not watched closely, choking and asphyxiation can occur.
Choking occurs when foods or medications go into the windpipe instead of the esophagus and cut off the air supply. When this happens, there is a short window of time for nursing home staff to administer aid before there is permanent damage or even death.
It is the duty of the nursing home to ensure that patients adhere to the medical orders outlined by their physician and properly supervises patients with medical issues. So many choking incidences at nursing homes could have been easily prevented if only the medical orders were followed for the patient.
Special Considerations for Patients With Clogged Breathing Tubes
For some nursing home patients unable to breathe on their own, the use of a ventilator or breathing machine is necessary. Some of these patients are completely reliant on a fully operational machine to support their needs — 24-hours per day.
In order to keep patients with breathing tubes safe, staff caring for these especially vulnerable group of patients must receive specialized training on the maintenance and cleaning of breathing tubes (endotracheal tubes).
When breathing tubes become dirty and clogged with phlegm or a machine malfunctions, a patient is at risk for severe complications such as choking or oxygen deprivation that can result in brain damage or death in a matter of minutes.
Nursing Home Choking Accident Awards and Claims
$525,000 Settlement; Nursing Home Choking Accident; Waukegan, Illinois
The victim in this choking incident was eighty-five. He had Alzheimer’s and that severally limited his ability to chew and swallow properly. Therefore, doctors instructed that he only eat soft foods. Also, he was to be watched during every meal. One day for lunch or dinner, staff gave him pizza. They believed this qualified as a soft food. Also, due to that belief, they did not think they had to directly supervise him during this meal. However, shortly after he was given the pizza, he choked on it and died. His representatives sued the nursing home, food catering company, and the speech rehab professionals. They argued in their complaint that the defendants’ combined negligence caused the man’s death. Further, they claimed that the defendants veered from the doctors’ strict instructions and that directly led to his passing. Despite the defendants’ initial objections, this case still got to a settlement. The plaintiffs received $525,000-$415,000 came from the nursing home and the rest came from the food catering company and the speech rehab professionals.
$200,000 Settlement; Nursing Home Choking Accident; Chicago, Illinois
The nursing home resident caught up in this choking incident was eighty-four. He was on dialysis and needed a diet of thick liquids as a result. This all had to be given to him through a feeding tube. All of this meant that he was a high risk of choking. Nursing home staff should have taken this into account in their day-to-day care of the man. However, on one occasion, a staffer veered from that direct plan of treatment. That person fed the man through his mouth instead of through the tube. Consequently, he choked and fell into cardio arrest. Then, he died because of that development. His four kids survived him. They brought an action stating that the staffer and the nursing home were negligent and caused his death. They sought compensation for all of the tangible and intangible harms that came about as a result of the defendants’ conduct. They argued that even though their father was old, the defendants reduced his quality of life and sped up his death wrongfully. In the end, they were able to secure a $200,000 settlement from the defendants.
$875,000 Settlement; Nursing Home Choking Accident; Chicago, Illinois
Here, a 73-year-old man choked on his lunch and things escalated quickly. He was a resident of an Illinois nursing home. He was labelled as a risk for choking. Nursing home staff needed to watch him while he ate and put him on a soft diet. However, in contrast to these rules, staff let him eat by himself on one occasion. He ate some sausage that was cut up into small pieces. The food did not go down well. He choked on it, went into cardio arrest, and died. His five children survived him and brought a case on his behalf. They sought compensation for the nursing home’s negligence and their father’s wrongful death. They pointed to the home’s obvious errors as proof of their claim. For damages, they cited pain, lost companionship, expenses, and other losses. They were able to secure $825,000 from the home’s insurance company and $50,000 from the company that set the man’s diet.
$500,000 Settlement; Nursing Home Choking Accident; Chicago, Illinois
The victim in this nursing home choking case was relatively young, forty-seven. He was admitted to the facility because he suffered a stroke. During his stay there, he lost a few teeth. However, nursing home staff did not update their plan of care for him regarding choking. Consequently, he choked on a hot dog they gave him. Staff thought he was having a seizure, so they treated him for that instead of for choking. This oversight caused him to go into cardiac and respiratory arrest. They did not find out about the airway blockage from the hot dog until paramedics tried to put a tube down his throat. It was too late. He died. He had four children and they all survived him. Together, they brought an action against the nursing home for wrongful death. They referenced the errors that were just described and sought compensation for the economic and non-economic loss that resulted. In a private settlement, they obtained $500,000.Chicago Nursing Home Liability When a Patient Chokes During an Admission to a Facility
If a family member or loved one has choked or asphyxiated while under the care of a Chicago nursing home, we invite you to meet for a free consultation with one of our Illinois nursing home abuse lawyers. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC has a skilled team of nursing home experts that can work to build a case if the nursing home is found to have neglected to prevent the choking or to come to aide the patient. We work on a contingency fee basis so there is no fee unless we obtain a financial recovery for you and your loved one.
Resources regarding the prevention of choking in nursing homes: