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When is an Illinois Nursing Home Responsible for a Resident’s Choking Death? 

 Posted on February 21, 2022 in Neglect

elmhurst nursing home injury lawyerMost of us take the ability to chew and swallow our food for granted. We eat three times a day or more without thinking twice about whether eating poses a risk to our safety. But as bodies age, reductions in muscle mass and strength in the mouth and throat, combined with dental problems such as tooth loss, make elderly populations at a much higher risk of choking on food. Even babies and very young children are at substantially less risk of choking on food than an adult over age 65. 

This has especially significant implications for elderly residents of Illinois nursing homes who often require the assistance of nursing home staff to eat. When staff are overworked, undertrained, or left to monitor too many patients, nursing home residents may be improperly supervised and could choke on their food as a result. Sometimes, choking incidents are serious enough to be fatal

Choking Incidents Require Immediate Attention

When someone chokes on food, the food may partially or fully block the airway. If the food only partially blocks a person’s airway, they can usually cough and make noise. Often coughing is enough to move the food and clear the airway. 

But when food completely blocks someone’s airway, no air - and therefore no sound - can escape. With staff supervision, firm back blows or abdominal thrusts can often clear the blockage. If those fail, emergency airway clearing equipment may be able to help. But a resident who is choking on food without proper supervision may be completely unable to signal for help. This is when choking incidents can become fatal. 

Common Causes of Resident Choking Incidents 

When a resident is at a particularly high risk of choking on food, a physician may order a special diet of softened or pureed food. If a resident needed softer food and the nursing home medical staff knew or should have known, a nursing home may be liable for the resident’s choking.

Likewise, if a nursing home is understaffed or if the staff is improperly trained, choking incidents may occur more frequently. A nursing home resident may also choke when their feeding tube becomes clogged or dislodged. Nursing homes are responsible for evaluating patients, providing appropriate diets and supervision, properly training staff, and ensuring the appropriate equipment, such as emergency airway clearance equipment, is available. Failing to provide these needs may make a nursing home liable for choking incidents. 

Meet with a Chicago, IL Nursing Home Choking Death Lawyer

Many families are rightfully horrified to learn of suboptimal care conditions in their loved one’s nursing homes. Sometimes, these conditions are poor enough to contribute to a resident’s wrongful death because of choking or another preventable incident. If someone you love has been injured or killed in their nursing home, speak with an experienced Cook County nursing home injuries attorney with Schwartz Injury Law. We can review your case, explain your options, and, if appropriate, zealously pursue justice on your loved one’s behalf. Call us today at 312-535-4625



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