IDPH has cited and fined Dekalb County Rehab and Nursing after a resident there choked on a dinner of chicken and waffles.
One thing that families almost never envision being a possible outcome when they admit a family member to a nursing home is the possibility that their loved one could choke to death on food. However, there are residents in nursing homes who are at risk of choking and sadly for some, that possibility comes to pass with deadly results.
There are two main factors that place residents at risk for having a nursing home choking accident. The first of these is physical; the other is psychiatric or behavioral. The kinds of physical issues that place residents at risk for choking would include things like poor dentition or some form of chewing or swallow dysfunction – often associated with neuromuscular issues such as movement disorders or the residual effects of strokes. The kinds of psychiatric issues that may place a resident at risk for may include dementia or some form of behavioral disorder which results in compulsive or uncontrolled behaviors with regard to food.
There are two main shortcomings that occurred at Dekalb that resulted in the choking and subsequent death of this resident.
First, the nursing home did not adjust the resident’s meal plan after he lost his dentures. Specifically, the resident had misplaced his lower dentures and was in the process of being fitted for new dentures. Importantly, the resident should have had a swallow evaluation done by a speech therapist to come up with modified diet orders or other approaches to eating which can serve to reduce the risk of choking. The recommendations of the speech therapist should have been incorporated into physician orders and/or the resident care plan, which then should have been carried out on a day-to-day, shift-to-shift basis. This was never done. Even worse, multiple staff members who were interviewed about the choking death stated they did not know the resident was eating without lower dentures, even though the missing dentures had been documented as missing since the end of April.
The second shortcoming was that there were no aides in the dining hall when the choking episode occurred. Federal regulations require that nursing homes have enough staff on hand to meet the care needs of the residents 24/7. There had even been several discussions at resident council meetings about the lack of staff in the dining hall to assist residents with their meals.
On the day of this nursing home choking incident, the general diet being fed to the residents consisted of a meal of waffles and fried chicken with syrup. According to other residents at the table, the resident began coughing and was unable to respond to the other residents as they tried to communicate with him. Because they couldn’t find any staff in the dining room, a resident from the table stood up and walked out of the dining room to the nursing station to get help.
When a nurse finally came into the dining room, she could not see any blockage in the resident’s mouth. She completed back blows and the Heimlich maneuver but without success. She called in for assistance from another staff member who was out of the dining room and when that staff member arrived he took over back blows. 911 was called and paramedics took over the resuscitation efforts. The resident was transferred to the hospital and soon thereafter passed away.
One of our core beliefs is that nursing homes are built to fail due to the business model they follow and that unnecessary accidental injuries and wrongful deaths of nursing home residents are the inevitable result. Order our FREE report, Built to Fail, to learn more about why. Our experienced Chicago nursing home lawyers are ready to help you understand what happened, why, and what your rights are. Contact us to get the help you need.
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