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Nursing Home Choking Injuries

Putting your loved one into a nursing home in Seattle, Kirkland, Olympia, Bellingham, or anywhere in Washington State for that matter can be a difficult decision. When you are forced to do this, you obviously hope that your elderly loved one will be placed in good hands and taken care of in a way that you would treat them if they were living in your home.

Choking injuries, unfortunately, may not cross your mind, but they do happen at nursing homes from time to time. Choking injuries can be very serious and even lead to death in some instances if the elderly person cannot stop choking. Many times these choking injuries are preventable. How does choking occur? It happens when food, of whatever kind, rather than going into the esophagus goes into the windpipe.

Staff members of nursing homes should all be well trained in basic CPR and other life-saving forms of first aid, including giving mouth to mouth and the Heimlich maneuver, but unfortunately not every staff member has received this kind of training. One of the main reasons for this is understaffing at the nursing home or a nursing home that has not properly trained their staff on how to properly address the needs of each individual resident. Choking injuries are very serious and can lead to death or brain damage if oxygen is cut off long enough to the brain.

Reasons for Choking at Nursing Homes

There are a number of reasons that an elderly person may end up choking at a nursing home. Some of them may be natural and some may be the result of a failure of the nursing home to properly watch over the elderly.

Another primary reason for choking with elderly people has to do with the fact that they do not produce as much saliva as younger people. Without the proper amount of saliva, the elderly are more prone to choke. Another reason for choking in the elderly has to do with the fact that many nursing home staff members are not as aware of the dietary restrictions of heath needs of the elderly resident as they should be, which contributes to the elderly person’s choking.

Some of the most common reasons are:

  • Suffering from cancer: especially throat or mouth cancer, which can make it harder to swallow.
  • Alzheimer’s disease: this disease can have a profound impact on an elderly person’s ability to chew and swallow food, especially when the disease matures to a certain point.
  • Breathing tubes that are not installed correctly.
  • Dentures that are not securely in place.
  • Brain disorders such as brain damage and other diseases that impact your ability to make decisions
  • Certain foods such as chicken that has bones in it, popcorn, steak or any large cut of red meat or pork, peanut butter, crackers. Basically any food that is hard to swallow.

In addition to understanding this, it is equally important to understand exactly how your elderly loved one choked in the first place. Again, some choking incidents are simply unavoidable because of the condition of the elderly person, but many times there are ways to save the elderly person. Knowing the following can be important factors in understanding how the choking took place:

  • Whether the choking incident occurred in the elderly person’s own room or whether it took place in a kitchen or main dining area
  • If the choking took place in a private room, was the elderly person alone or being fed?
  • Was the food the elderly person choked on a food that the nursing home or assisted living facility’s dietician or doctor recommend they eat or was it a food that was not approved?
  • Did the nursing home or assisted living facility’s staff call 911 and perform CPR or a Heimlich maneuver in a reasonably fast way or did they take their time, and did this delay lead to the choking person’s injuries or death?

The nursing home or assisted living facility may or may not be especially forthcoming with this information. But obtaining this information is vital to understanding how your loved one was injured.

Washington State Nursing Home Choking Laws

There are very specific laws with respect to the elderly who suffer choking injuries while in a nursing home. The most common form of a lawsuit to bring in a case like this is called a negligence case, in particular a failure to supervise. After all, in many instances the reason someone is injured is because the nursing home failed to properly supervise and care for the elderly person. This in turn is often because the nursing home was not sufficiently staffed.

When you bring a negligence claim against a nursing home in Washington State, you have to prove a few key elements that legally make up a negligence claim. First, you have to show that the nursing home owned your elderly loved one a duty to keep them safe and protect them from hazards, including choking hazards. Second, you have to prove that the actions of the nursing home breached this duty in some way. Third, you have to prove that your loved one’s injuries stemmed directly from the nursing home’s breach.

Regarding the second element, this is often a source of contention and debate. The nursing home may attempt to argue that they did nothing wrong, that the choking incident was the result of a reason other than their negligence. As your lawyer, we will attempt to show that this is not true, that the nursing home failed to properly supervise,

How The Jackman Law Firm can Help

If your loved one has been injured by being choked or choking while at a nursing home or an assisted living facility, you have the right to bring a claim against the nursing home for your elderly loved one’s injuries.

In addition to helping your elderly loved one receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries, you can also help future people at the nursing home or may be injured in a similar manner. Many times the only way to get the attention of the nursing home and their insurance company, in terms of forcing them to change their practices, is to bring a claim against them for compensation. Of course, these claims are not easy to win and many times the nursing home will try to evade liability for your elderly loved one’s injuries.

Those evasions and may excuses may center on any number of grounds, from claiming that your loved one’s poor health was to blame for their injuries to claiming that someone else, perhaps another resident, was to blame and they had no control over their actions. If these kinds of defenses and excuses are raised, we have the know-how and the resources to fight back and prove that they were in fact negligent.

We have a proven track-record of successfully litigating these cases, ensuring you get the best possible result. We can interview key witnesses and subpoena the right internal documents of the nursing home that may have damaging evidence and information that will help prove your case. After we are able to establish liability on the part of the nursing home or assisted living facility, we can make sure we help you recover the requisite damages for your elderly loved one’s injuries. These can include:

  • Money for pain and suffering
  • Money for medical bills
  • Money for future medical treatment
  • Money for out of pocket expenses

These damages are not easy to recover and the nursing home may very well attempt to fight you to gain access to these funds. Insurance companies and nursing homes rarely just write you a check without asking questions or putting up roadblocks. The Jackman Law Firm can get you over those roadblocks.

Feel free to call for a free consultation to discuss your case.

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