As the elderly age or develop certain medical conditions, there is an increased risk that they may have difficulty swallowing, which can cause choking. When doctors or nursing staff fail to recognize these risks and act accordingly, elderly patients often suffer injuries or die from asphyxiation when they eat unsupervised. Patients with breathing tubes are also at a higher risk of choking as it is possible for the tube to be clogged with fluid or for machine malfunctions to pose a hazard. The Chicago Injury Center believes that it is inexcusable for nursing facility staff to neglect patients who have an elevated risk of choking and our lawyers work hard to represent the rights of clients throughout Illinois who have been subjected to negligent care.
Causes of Choking in Nursing Home Patients
Certain medical conditions may increase the difficulty in which a patient is able to swallow. Patients with these conditions should be put on diets that minimize the risk of choking and should not be allowed to eat without supervision in order to ensure that they receive prompt medical treatment in the event that food or a foreign body becomes lodged in their airways. Conditions that increase the risk of choking include the following.
- A recent stroke or brain trauma. Patients who have endured a stroke or brain trauma often have diminished motor function, which includes the ability to swallow.
- Neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis.
- Cancer in the throat or mouth. Radiation therapy can also cause difficulty swallowing, so any patient undergoing treatment for cancer of any type should be supervised while eating and provided a diet that minimizes the risk of choking.
- Breathing tubes. Mucus or phlegm may build up in patients’ breathing tubes, which can ultimately cause them to die from asphyxiation. The machines attached to these tubes may malfunction as well, requiring regular monitoring to ensure that the patient is able to breathe at all times.
- The aging process. As we age, our muscles grow weaker and this includes the muscles required to swallow foods. Special care must be taken for those who are aging and at risk of choking and patients’ diets should be changed if they are having difficulty swallowing solid foods.
Nursing care staff should be aware of which patients are at risk of choking and make every effort to prevent an accident. Unfortunately, neglect and failure to take the proper precautions result in many injuries and deaths from choking each year.
If your loved one was injured because of nursing home negligence, contact the Chicago Injury Center today to schedule a free consultation with one of our qualified nursing home abuse lawyers to learn more about your rights. Our dedicated and experienced attorneys will guide you through every step of the way and answer all of your questions so that you know exactly what to expect and if we are unable to collect compensation on your behalf, you won’t owe us a thing.