Nursing Home Choking Injury Lawyer in San Antonio, TX
Nursing Home Choking Injury Lawyer in San Antonio
We all know that aging poses a lot more health risks. Your body starts slowing down, your immune system suffers, and your daily mobility becomes a challenge. But did you know that the risk of choking accidents also increases in your elder years? In fact, thousands of elderly people die from choking every year in the U.S. Many of these choking incidents happen in nursing homes. In some cases, these tragic choking accidents can be indications of nursing home neglect and abuse. If your elderly loved one has suffered one or more choking injuries (or has died from a choking accident), contact a nursing home choking injury lawyer at Janicek Law. We will thoroughly investigate your claim and fight for appropriate compensation on your behalf. Call us today at 210-366-4949 for a free consultation.
How Many Elderly People Die from Choking Every Year?
According to the National Safety Council, choking incidents are the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death in America. Unfortunately, choking deaths are the most common among elderly people and nursing home residents. The NSC says that 5,051 people died from choking in 2017, and more than half of those choking victims were over the age of 74.
How Do Choking Injuries and Deaths Happen in Nursing Homes?
Choking injuries and deaths can happen to elderly people for a variety of reasons. Listed below are the most common causes of choking incidents in nursing homes.
- Difficulty Swallowing or Dysphagia: Some elderly people struggle to swallow their food and water due to neurological disorders, neurological damage, side effects from medications, etc.
- Sjogren’s Syndrome is a health condition that causes people to have dry eyes and a dry mouth. A decrease in saliva, which helps break down food, is certainly a choking hazard.
- Dental Problems: Many elderly people have dentures or suffer from poor dental health in general. Dental problems can make it difficult to properly chew food and swallow without choking.
- Cancer: Some types of cancer can cause esophageal blockages which certainly raises the choking risk.
- Mouth Sores can also cause elderly people to struggle with chewing and swallowing.
What is a Swallow Test for Nursing Home Patients?
If a nursing home resident struggles with swallowing, they may have to undergo a swallow test. The test can be a bedside one with minimal equipment, or it can involve real time x-ray images of the throat. In the bedside swallow test, a doctor may do a physical examination of the throat muscles required to swallow properly. Then, the elderly person must swallow different substances.
Meanwhile, some dysphagia sufferers undergo a swallow test that involves real time x-ray images. In this type of test, elderly people must swallow a barium and food mixture. The barium allows doctors to clearly see the person’s throat movements on the x-ray images.
If either test reveals that the nursing home patient is struggling to swallow, their doctor will create a specific care plan to eliminate choking hazards.
How Long Does it Take to Die From Choking?
A choking victim can lose consciousness very quickly due to airway obstruction and lack of oxygen to the brain. However, if choking continues, victims can experience brain death in approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
What To Do When an Elderly Person is Choking
If a senior citizen begins choking, you must act quickly to prevent serious injuries or death. If they are coughing forcefully, this is an indictation that they can still breathe. Coughing alone may be able to clear the obstructing object. But if you notice the person turning blue or struggling to talk, cough, or breathe, that’s when you need to step in. The best way to save anyone from choking is to perform the heimlich maneuver.
In order to perform the heimlich maneuver, follow these steps.
- Stand behind the choking victim and place one of your legs between their legs to keep them stable.
- Wrap your arms around their abdomen.
- Place the thumb side of your fist just above the belly button and put your other hand on top of that fist.
- Begin abdominal thrusts until the victim coughs up the foreign object. In other words, jerk your fists up into the victim’s abdomen.
- If the choking victim is pregnant or just very frail, you can perform chest thrusts instead.
- Even when the choking stops, call 911.
If the heimlich maneuver doesn’t work and the victim loses consciousness, you must perform CPR to prevent brain damage or death. Even if you have no prior CPR experience or training, you could still save a life by following the steps below.
- First, tilt the victim’s head and lift their chin in order to open their airway.
- Next, give them two rescue breaths.
- Begin compressing the victim’s chest at a rate of 100 beats per minute. If you’re struggling to keep count, just do chest compressions at the beat of the song “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees.
- After you’ve done 30 chest compressions, give the victim 2 more rescue breaths.
- Repeat until medical professionals arrive.
How Should a Nursing Facility Prevent Choking?
In most cases, choking incidents are preventable when nursing home staff take the correct precautions.
Because most choking incidents among nursing home residents occur due to too much food (or even medications) entering the windpipe instead of the esophagus, the best prevention methods are dietary restrictions. If nursing staff members notice that residents are struggling to chew and swallow on a regular basis, they may first order a swallow test and then implement the proper diet. For example, senior citizens with dysphagia may require a liquid or soft foods diet. Additionally, they may have to take liquid or dissolvable forms of their daily medications.
If certain medical conditions – such as neurological disorders or cancer – raise choking risks, nursing staff must provide the proper treatment through their doctor’s orders. This may include a diet change, the correct medications, and monitoring the patient while they’re eating.
How is a Choking Accident a Sign of Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect?
As stated previously, nursing home choking accidents are largely preventable. If your elderly loved one has suffered one or more choking accidents, this may be a sign of nursing home neglect or abuse.
Nursing homes are required to protect and care for all of their residents. If that means they have to switch a resident from solid foods to soft foods in order to prevent them from choking on food and suffering oxygen deprivation, they must do so. Eliminating choking risk factors is an essential part of many senior citizens’ care plans.
What’s worse is if a nursing home resident suffers wrongful death from a choking accident. Death from choking indicates that not only did the nursing home staff fail to prevent choking to begin with, but they also failed to provide adequate first aid (e.g. the heimlich maneuver or CPR) in order to save the resident.
If it’s evident that the nursing home is failing to prevent choking time and time again, you may have grounds to pursue legal action.
How to Prove Nursing Home Negligence
In order to prove nursing home abuse and neglect, you must prove the legal theory of negligence. San Antonio elder abuse attorneys at Janicek Law can help you do this.
- Duty of Care: Nursing homes and long-term care facilities owe a specific duty of care to their residents. They must protect them from harm, fulfill all their basic needs, and keep them as content and comfortable as possible.
- Breached Duty of Care: The nursing facility failed to prevent choking, serious injuries, or death from choking. Therefore, they breached their required duty of care.
- Causation: The nursing home resident choked as a direct result of the nursing home’s breached duty of care.
- Damages: The resident suffered many types of damages from the choking accident and they should receive proper compensation for these damages.
Damages for Choking Injuries and Death in a Nursing Home
Nursing home patients (and their families) can recover a variety of damages from a dangerous choking accident, including:
- Past and future medical bills associated with severe injuries from choking
- Past and future rehabilitative bills associated with a traumatic brain injury related to choking, for example
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Funeral and burial costs if the choking incident resulted in wrongful death