Are Nursing Homes Liable for Choking Injuries and Deaths?
Many nursing home residents are no longer able to eat their meals the same as they would have before their health started to decline.
For a number of reasons, they may not be able to properly chew or swallow food. When they are involved in a choking incident, they can suffer serious injury or even death.
In many cases, the nursing home is to blame because it did not follow rules meant to reduce the risk for choking.
If that is the case, you can take legal action against the skilled nursing facility. Contact our law firm today to schedule your free case review.
The Risks of Choking in Nursing Homes
Choking is the fourth-leading cause of unnatural deaths at nursing homes. According to the National Safety Council, more than half the people who die from choking accidents each year are over the age of 74.
As elderly people age, they have less saliva. Their mouths and throat become dryer. In addition, they may be taking medications that can cause dry mouth and throat muscles.
Without saliva, it is practically impossible to digest food, and it can become stuck in the throat.
Some seniors try to stimulate saliva by sucking on candies, but these are choking risks themselves.
Why Nursing Home Residents Have Difficulty Swallowing
Many elderly adults who are in a nursing home suffer from degenerative diseases that could impact their ability to chew and make them a high risk for choking accidents.
One of the main reasons why an elderly person could have difficulty chewing their food and swallowing is Alzheimer's disease.
This condition can impact the part of the brain that controls swallowing, and it can lead to a weak swallow. This will increase the risk of choking in nursing homes.
Risk Factors for Choking Injuries
Here are some of the risk factors for choking injuries in nursing homes:
- Some residents have trouble eating because they have breathing tubes
- Residents may suffer from a condition such as serious cerebral palsy, which can impact chewing and swallowing
- Some residents suffer from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or other neurological disorders
- Residents could have a condition like aspiration pneumonia that raises the risk of choking
Foods to Avoid When Residents Are a Choking Risk
Nursing home administrators must ensure that the resident's diet is such that it reduces the risk of choking when they may have an elevated chance of it.
This includes avoiding foods such as:
- Dry Food
- Food with bones
The nursing home needs to review the resident's diet in light of their risks. Some elderly residents need to have puréed food to reduce choking risk.
If that is the case, it becomes the obligation of the nursing home to do so.
Why There Are Choking Accidents at a Nursing Home
There have been countless documented incidents at nursing homes when staff left elderly residents alone at mealtime or failed to provide the proper diet or assistance.
There should be qualified staff in the dining room at all times to prevent choking accidents. Not only that, but there must be enough staff to watch and help an elderly person as they eat.
One staffer member would certainly not be enough to supervise 50 nursing home residents at mealtime.
However, staff is an expense that nursing home administrators and their bosses do not like to invest in at many nursing homes. Hiring nursing assistants and the right number of nursing home staff can cut into a facility's profits.
As such, a nursing home or assisted living facility will keep staff levels artificially low to boost the bottom line.
What Nursing Homes Must Do to Protect Residents from Choking Deaths
Here are some requirements found in the Code of Federal Regulations that nursing homes must follow to protect elderly adults from choking hazards:
- When the resident moves into the nursing home, staff must perform an initial assessment of their most serious risk for choking and other medical conditions that could cause them difficulty in swallowing
- Nursing home staff must develop an individualized care plan to address the specific needs of a nursing home resident.
- Staff needs to work with doctors and the nutrition director to address dietary restrictions that could prevent choking in a nursing home for elderly adults
- The nursing home must have a sufficient number of trained staff to supervise and assist residents during mealtime
- The nursing home must have special equipment to clear airways as necessary. It must also have special eating equipment for residents who need it.
- Staff must be trained to execute the Heimlich maneuver and handle a choking emergency.
Long Term Injuries From a Choking Accident
Even if a nursing home resident survives a choking accident, they can still face serious long-term injuries from the time that they were unable to breathe and take in enough oxygen.
Some of the injuries from choking accidents include:
- Brain damage - even being deprived of oxygen for a short period of time can lead to permanent brain damage. Brain cells begin to die after a few seconds without oxygen
- Damage to the esophagus and airways
Some residents may have difficulty eating again, even if they survive the choking accident. They may be afraid of or have damage to their throat.
Nursing Home Choking Lawsuits
We help families like yours file choking death lawsuits against nursing homes where your loved one was harmed.
Like any nursing home case, choking death lawsuits require that you prove that the nursing home was negligent. This means that they acted unreasonably under the circumstances.
Some choking victims may be injured from a legitimate accident. To receive financial compensation, you would need to show that staff members were careless and did not heed the increased risk of choking that was present due to the condition of the nursing home resident.
When family members are injured by neglect and elder abuse, you can recover financial compensation. Contact our legal team today.
Call Us for a Free Legal Consultation
If your loved one was a victim of nursing home abuse, call Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers for a free case evaluation.
For your free legal consultation, call (800) 424-5757 or you can send our law firm a message online.
Legal action is a must when your loved one was harmed by neglect or abuse at a nursing home. At your free case review, we will review the facts of your situation and advise you whether you can file a lawsuit against a negligent nursing home.
Call our law firm today to learn how to begin our attorney client relationship and get justice for a nursing home choking accident.
Frequently Asked Questions About Choking Deaths and Injuries in Nursing Homes
Here are some questions that we are commonly asked about nursing home choking accidents:
How Do I Prove My Case in Nursing Home Choking Lawsuits?
You need evidence about what happened in order to prove that the nursing home should be made to pay for your loved one's injuries.
Choking is not always an easy case to prove because you need witnesses who saw what happened or clear evidence that your loved one suffered an injury that they would not have had the nursing home exercise ordinary care.
A nursing home abuse attorney knows how to gather the evidence necessary to prove your case.
What Damages Can My Family Receive in a Nursing Home Abuse Case?
In many cases, your loved one has died, and that is why you are filing a lawsuit. In this case, your claim would be for wrongful death.
Your family would receive compensation for your own grief and the loss of your relationship with your loved one.
This amount varies based on the case and your family's own particular damages.
Do I Need a Lawyer for a Nursing Home Choking Accident Lawsuit?
You should have an experienced attorney for any nursing home lawsuit. It is not easy to gather the facts and prove that the nursing home was legally responsible for the accident.
There is a fine line between an accident and legally actionable negligence, and the lawyer could present your case in a compelling manner.
Then, they could negotiate the right amount of financial compensation with the nursing home or their insurance company.