Choking Incidents: Risks, Causes, and Prevention
Choking is a serious and potentially life-threatening issue that affects many nursing home residents. Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, affects up to 60% of elderly adults, increasing their risk of choking. Nursing homes should establish strict food guidelines and dietary restrictions within a comprehensive care plan to minimize choking risks. However, despite efforts to prevent choking, many nursing home residents still suffer from choking incidents due to various causes, including poor muscle performance and dysphagia, unsupervised residents, overworked staff, understaffed nursing homes, and nursing home negligence.
The Noll Law Office is a law firm located in Springfield, Illinois, that concentrates on nursing home abuse and neglect cases. They provide legal services to victims of nursing home abuse and their families who have been physically injured by an Illinois nursing home and its staff. The Noll Law Office is committed to advocating for the rights of nursing home residents and holding negligent caregivers and facilities accountable for their actions.
If you believe that your loved one suffered injuries, including death, due to the abuse, negligence, or malpractice of a nursing home in Illinois, contact the Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyers at the Noll Law Office today. They offer free initial consultations where they will discuss what happened and help you investigate the case. In the consultation, they will explain your rights under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act. They take cases on a contingency fee, so they only get paid if they successfully obtain a settlement or jury verdict in your favor. Call (217) 414-8889 today. Their experienced, compassionate lawyers are awaiting your call.
Choking in Nursing Homes: Understanding the Risks
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 3,600 people aged 65 and older died from choking in one year in the United States. In nursing homes, the risk of choking is high due to the age and health status of the residents.
Nursing homes must establish strict food guidelines and dietary restrictions within a comprehensive care plan to reduce the risk of choking. This includes providing meals that are easy to chew and swallow and ensuring that residents are seated upright while eating.
Causes of Choking Among Nursing Home Residents
Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of choking incidents among nursing home residents. Some of these factors include:
- Muscle performance and dysphagia: As we age, our muscle performance and swallowing ability weaken, which can lead to dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). A stroke most often causes oropharyngeal dysphagia in older people. One-third of all stroke patients have this problem.
- Degenerative diseases: Degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and dementia can cause muscle weakness and difficulty swallowing, increasing the risk of choking incidents.
- Reduced Saliva Secretions (Dry mouth): Dry mouth, either from aging or certain medications, can make it difficult to swallow food, increasing the risk of choking.
- The aftermath of a stroke: Stroke survivors often experience difficulty swallowing, leading to choking incidents.
- Dental Issues: Dental problems such as missing teeth, poorly fitted dentures, and gum disease can make it difficult to chew food and increase the risk of choking.
Aside from these risk factors, other factors can lead to choking incidents in nursing homes. For instance, unsupervised residents wandering around during meals can choke on their food. Additionally, overworked staff may be unable to provide adequate supervision of residents’ eating, increasing the risk of choking incidents.
Signs and Symptoms of Choking
Choking is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate action. Therefore, educating staff and family members on identifying the signs and symptoms of choking is essential to prevent complications. Some signs of choking include:
- Coughing: This is the most common symptom of choking. It may be accompanied by wheezing, gagging, or spitting up food.
- Shortness of breath: Choking can cause oxygen levels to drop, making breathing hard and shortening your breath.
- Blue lips or skin: A lack of oxygen can lead to a bluish tint in the skin, lips, or fingernails.
- Inability to speak: Choking can cause a blockage in the airway, making it difficult to speak or make sounds.
- Clutching the throat: If someone is choking, they may grasp at their throat or neck.
Identifying choking incidents in elderly populations can be challenging due to communication difficulties and cognitive impairments. However, it is important for staff to recognize these signs and act immediately to help residents that may be choking.
Common Choking Injuries
Choking incidents in nursing homes can lead to serious injuries that require immediate medical attention. Even when the victim receives prompt medical care, they may still suffer from long-term complications. Here are some of the most common choking injuries in nursing homes:
Choking incidents in nursing homes can lead to death due to a lack of oxygen to the brain, causing brain damage or cardiac arrest. Elderly individuals are more vulnerable to choking incidents due to weakened muscles in the throat and difficulties with swallowing. In some cases, death may occur within minutes of the choking incident.
Choking can lead to a lack of oxygen to the brain, causing brain damage. Depending on the severity of the injury, the victim may experience a wide range of symptoms, such as memory loss, difficulty with coordination, speech problems, and personality changes. Severe brain damage can lead to a vegetative state or death.
Aspiration pneumonia occurs when food or liquid is inhaled into the lungs, leading to infection. Elderly individuals are more susceptible to aspiration pneumonia due to weakened immune systems and pre-existing medical conditions. Symptoms of aspiration pneumonia include coughing, fever, chest pain, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, aspiration pneumonia can lead to sepsis and death.
Throat Damage and Throat Irritation
Choking incidents can also cause damage to the throat and lead to irritation. Depending on the severity of the choking incident, the victim may experience a wide range of symptoms, such as sore throat, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and throat pain. Throat damage can also lead to complications such as infections, inflammation, and scarring.
Malnutrition and Dehydration
Damage or irritation to the throat can make it difficult for the victim to eat and drink, leading to malnutrition and dehydration. These conditions can cause various health problems, such as weakness, fatigue, dizziness, and organ failure. In addition, malnutrition and dehydration can also make it harder for a person to get better from other health problems.
What Are Choking Prevention Techniques and Treatments in Illinois Nursing Homes?
Nursing homes can take several steps to minimize the risk of choking incidents. This includes modifying diets and food textures, training staff on recognizing and responding to choking incidents and updating the comprehensive care plan regularly to reflect any changes in a resident’s needs. Supervising residents during mealtimes and educating staff on responding to choking incidents, such as performing the Heimlich maneuver and CPR.
Family Involvement in Preventing Nursing Home Choking Incidents and Abuse
Family members can play a key role in preventing choking incidents and nursing home abuse by staying involved in their loved one’s care. They can ensure that the care plan is followed and support and advocate for their loved one’s safety.
Family members can also watch for signs of abuse, including unexplained injuries, bruises, and broken bones. If they suspect their loved one is being abused, they should report it to the appropriate authorities immediately.
Taking Action Against Nursing Home Choking Incidents
Choking incidents in nursing homes are a serious issue that requires immediate attention. Families and caregivers need to take steps to prevent choking and report instances of abuse and neglect in Illinois nursing homes.
If a loved one has suffered an asphyxiation injury or has passed away after choking in a nursing home, the skilled attorneys at the Noll Law Office can help hold accountable those who were negligent. Dangerously low staff levels and poor administration are common issues across Illinois nursing homes. Contact the Illinois nursing home negligence attorneys at the Noll Law Office for a free consultation.