Unfortunately, we here at Tittle & Perlmuter are all too aware of the low quality of care of nursing homes in Ohio and avoidable injury that results. Choking injuries are a common occurrence in nursing homes, and often are the result of nursing home abuse or neglect. The National Safety Council reported that choking is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. In 2015, 56 percent of individuals who died from choking were over the age of 74. The attorneys at Tittle & Perlmuter are experienced working these types of cases and are dedicated to holding nursing homes accountable for choking negligence due to inappropriate care.
Mayo Clinic describes choking as “a foreign object is lodged in the throat or windpipe and blocks the flow of air.” Choking can result in cutting off oxygen to the brain, which may lead to brain damage, organ failure or death. Signs to be aware of that could indicate if someone is choking includes:
- Inability to speak
- Difficulty breathing
- Inability to cough
- Skin or lips turning blue
- Loss of consciousness
If an individual presents with these symptoms because they’re choking, perform the Heimlich Maneuver or CPR (if they’re unresponsive). If you are unable, find someone who is.
Choking Risks in the Elderly and Infirm
As individuals age, various physical and mental impairments can develop and result in difficulty chewing or swallowing, which can, in turn, cause a choking incident to happen. Those impairments can include:
- Illnesses or infections that affect physical or cognitive abilities
- Medication errors that cause symptoms making it difficult to chew and swallow
- Neurodegenerative diseases that create a higher risk of choking or forgetting to swallow including Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease
- Physical obstructions, such as pieces of food
- Poor diet resulting in dental and muscle tone problems
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
- Objects in breathing tube
- Cancer, especially in the neck or mouth
- Lack of supervision by a nursing home staff
Choking Incidents are Preventable
Choking incidents are often avoidable and nursing homes must take appropriate measures to prevent choking or help if a resident is choking. Nursing home residents with such impairments may require special diets or care plans that exclude possible choking hazards. In addition, residents at risk of choking should be properly supervised during meals and when receiving medication. Nursing homes are responsible for providing a safe living environment for its residents. This includes sticking to each individual’s care plan that may include specifications in supervision. Staff should take precaution of choking hazards.
Clogged Breathing Tubes
Everyone needs an unobstructed airway to receive adequate oxygen. Those who require a breathing tube to survive are entitled to special precautions and supervision at a nursing home to secure and ensure an open airway. A breathing tube can become obstructed with saliva, mucous, or other materials. A clogged breathing tube can cause brain death within minutes, so those who have one should receive increased monitoring by nursing home staff. If the nursing home staff is careless in care planning, staffing, or monitoring, they are disregarding their elderly patient’s safety and well-being. The attorneys at Tittle & Perlmuter are committed to standing up for the victims and families who have suffered from nursing home negligence.
What is a Breathing Tube?
A breathing tube is a plastic tube that is hooked up to a ventilator or breathing bag and is placed in the trachea through the mouth or nose. It is held in place by tape or soft straps.
Why do Individuals Require Breathing Tubes?
Breathing tubes can act as lifelines for residents who cannot breathe on their own for a variety of reasons. The following are situations where individuals need breathing tubes:
- After surgical procedures where endotracheal tubes are required
- For infections or conditions that could close up the windpipe
- Suffering from bronchiolitis or pneumonia
- Commonly used when treating cancers or brain conditions
- If an individual has Parkinson’s disease, ALS or multiple sclerosis
Preventing Clogged Breathing Tubes
When an individual has a breathing tube it is either hard or impossible to speak or communicate because the tube passes through the vocal cords. This leaves residents in a vulnerable position because they cannot effectively notify the staff if they are having trouble breathing. That is why it is important for nursing home administration and staff to monitor the condition of the individual and their breathing tube. The tube can become clogged with mucus, food or other debris. It is crucial to monitor the following:
- Respiratory or pulmonary issues
- Signs of distress
- Vital signs
- Any changes in health or demeanor
- Any other signs of concern
If the nursing home staff fails to report or respond to any of these issues, they could be liable for negligence and result in a nursing home abuse case. It is essential that staff clean and monitor all breathing tubes to prevent residents from suffocating. A clogged breathing tube can result in:
- Brain or spinal damage
- Injured vertebrae
- Pulmonary aspiration
- Choking on debris
- Heart attack or cardiac arrest
- Airway perforation
- Damage to nasal passage and/or vocal cords
- Dental damage
- Trauma affecting the lips, tongue, gums, or mouth
- Early or sudden death
Call Tittle & Perlmuter Today for a Free Consultation
Choking incidents and clogged breathing tubes in nursing homes shouldn’t happen, but they do and our law firm takes these cases seriously. The lawyers at Tittle & Perlmuter are ready to listen to your case and advise you on the best course of action. Call (216) 308-1522 for a free consultation or fill out an online contact form. We will promptly respond back to you. We are also available on weekends or in the evening, and we can come to you.