An important risk that many nursing home residents face as they age and their condition declines is the risk of choking. This is often related to long-term chronic illnesses or advanced forms of dementia. One health care professional who plays an important part in nursing home choking cases is a speech therapist.
One vital function that speech therapists play in a nursing home setting is assessing a resident’s ability to swallow. A swallow assessment looks at two different elements of eating. First, there is chewing, meaning the ability to grind food up in your mouth so that it can be swallowed. Second, there is swallowing, which is the act of moving food down the digestive tract. Problems with either can lead to a choking accident involving a nursing home resident.
Once the swallow assessment is completed, if there are deficiencies in the resident’s ability to chew and/or swallow, then the speech therapist will outline a series of recommendations that should be followed to help keep the resident safe from a choking accident. In well-run nursing homes, the resident’s issues with chewing and/or swallowing will be identified as a problem area on the resident’s care plan and the recommendations listed by the speech therapist will be formally incorporated into the resident’s care plan.
The role of the speech therapist in addressing choking risks for nursing home residents gives rise to a number of avenues of inquiry when there is a choking accident in a nursing home:
- Was a request for a speech therapy evaluation appropriate and was it made?
- Was the speech therapy evaluation ordered?
- Was the evaluation ever done?
- Did the speech therapist made a reasonable set of findings given what was known about the resident?
- Did the speech therapist make a reasonable set of recommendations given what was found during the evaluation?
- Were the findings and recommendations of the speech therapist incorporated into the resident care plan?
- Were the recommendations of the speech therapist implemented on a day-to-day basis?
Pursuing this line of questions is often a path to answering the ultimate question: was the injury to and/or wrongful death of the nursing home resident as a result a choking accident preventable? Sadly, the answer all too often is yes, it was.
One of our core beliefs is that nursing homes are built to fail due to the business model they follow and that unnecessary injuries and illnesses and wrongful deaths of 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.