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Chicago nursing home injury attorneyThe majority of nursing home residents have physical and mental disabilities that affect their ability to live independently. Residents may be living in the facility primarily because they need help using the bathroom, showering, eating, and completing other daily living tasks. Nursing home staff members have a responsibility to evaluate the degree of assistance residents need to complete these tasks and to adequately provide the level of care needed. Because many residents have health conditions that affect their ability to eat, nursing home staff should be especially aware of choking risks. When nursing home staff do not take the steps necessary to prevent residents from choking, the facility could be held legally responsible for residents who are injured or killed in choking accidents.

Staff Have a Legal Duty to Monitor Residents

One of the biggest responsibilities nursing home staff have is to supervise residents so that they do not put themselves in dangerous situations. What constitutes a dangerous situation may vary depending on the resident’s individual needs. For example, a resident with advanced dementia may need to be more closely monitored than a resident who does not have significant cognitive impairment.

When a new resident is admitted to a nursing home, he or she undergoes assessments in order to determine the type and extent of care he or she needs. If a resident has health problems such as dysphagia that put him or her at a higher risk of choking, staff should take steps to mitigate this risk as much as possible. This may include monitoring the resident during meals, modifying the patient’s diet so that it only includes easy-to-swallow food, or other precautions. Nursing home staff should also periodically re-assess residents in order to determine if the residents need additional care and attention.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_choking-swallowing-danger-nursing-home.jpgFor those who live in nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities, swallowing food is often difficult. There are many different conditions that could affect a person’s ability to swallow, including neurological disorders, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Simply getting older can also wear down the muscles and nerves of the throat, making it hard for some elderly patients to swallow normally. Issues with swallowing dramatically increase the risk of choking, which means that nursing homes must take precautions to protect at-risk patients.

Not Just an Accident

For a healthy person, an incident of choking is usually just an accident. A piece of food may “go down the wrong way” or a person might be talking or doing something else while eating, which could lead to choking. For a resident of a nursing home, it is possible for a choking event to occur as an accident, but many cases are caused by a lack of proper monitoring. In short, the facility staff should have taken steps to prevent the resident from choking but failed to do so.

The Duty of the Nursing Home

Upon admission to a nursing facility, a new resident must undergo a series of assessments so that the staff understands the resident’s condition, along with his or her needs. The results of these assessments are used to create a care plan customized to address the resident’s specific risk factors.

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