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Elderly care

How Can Nursing Homes Prevent Choking Injuries and Deaths?

Seniors Face Heightened Risks of Choking

Contrary to popular belief, the rate of death by choking is higher among the elderly than in any other age group, even children and infants. For a variety of reasons, seniors are at a much higher risk of a choking incident that results in long-term injury or fatality. That means nursing homes have a clear responsibility to protect their elderly residents from choking, particularly if they are also disabled or have severe medical conditions.

But how exactly can nursing home staff prevent choking injuries in the elderly? At Brown & Barron, LLC, our nursing home neglect attorneys have witnessed many cases where staff allowed serious choking injuries to happen because of neglect. By following the correct protocol instead – and taking their residents’ needs into meaningful consideration – nursing homes may be able to prevent many more choking incidents and reduce the harm done to victims.

Defining the Duty of Care in Nursing Homes

Nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and residential care facilities all have a binding legal obligation to provide a certain level of care to their residents, called the “duty of care.” This duty is established as soon as the facility takes on a new resident and agrees in writing that they will obey all applicable laws, codes, and requirements to cover their basic needs. Although the levels of qualified medical staff vary between a 24-hour skilled nursing facility and a residential care facility for the elderly (RCFE), there is no excuse for failing to provide adequate supervision during mealtimes or meet the basic medical recommendations for a disabled resident.

Here are a few key examples of how nursing homes can fail to meet the duty of care and cause choking injuries:

  • Failing to monitor an at-risk resident during mealtimes
  • Not providing adequate hydration to residents
  • Lack of urgency when contacting medical emergency services after a choking incident
  • Failing to employ enough qualified medical personnel who could intervene during a major choking incident
  • Delays in care due to lack of supervision

Preventing Choking Incidents in the Elderly

Conversely, when nursing homes do meet the duty of care, they have a real chance to lower the incidence of choking injuries and deaths among seniors. In most cases, the best way to lower risks overall is through adequate staffing and supervision. With the correct number of medical experts on hand to supervise during mealtimes, choking incidents may be prevented – and even if choking does occur, it may not result in a fatality.

Some other ways that nursing homes can help residents avoid choking incidents and death:

  • Using special preparations on foods that are difficult for seniors to swallow, such as the “julienne” method or blending
  • Having a trained nurse or medical professional monitor at-risk seniors as they eat
  • Training facility staff to go slowly and remain patient when feeding an incapacitated or disabled resident
  • Making sure that residents have enough water to stay hydrated, whether through drinking or an IV tube
  • Checking breathing tubes for blockages and other issues
  • Reminding all staff about the proper emergency protocol if someone is choking
  • Creating an effective communication system for prompt emergency services
  • Checking that all dining residents have dentures and other required equipment to chew and digest food properly

Your Advocates After a Preventable Choking Injury or Death

There’s nothing that can truly account for the pain of losing a loved one to a preventable choking incident. If your senior loved one has suffered from choking injuries or died as a result of nursing home neglect, our team at Brown & Barron, LLC can apply over 75 years of combined experience to your case, serving as your compassionate advisors throughout the legal process. Because our law firm focuses on cases of nursing home and neglect, we have the experience, skills, and reputation to help you fight for fair compensation in the wake of losses – and ensure that the nursing home is held accountable for its actions.

Do you think that you have a nursing home choking injury claim? Contact us today at (410) 698-1717 to schedule a free consultation in Baltimore or anywhere in Maryland.

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