A 47-year-old man who was diagnosed within a “moderate range of mental retardation” choked to death on a purloined piece of fish in the Ridge Terrace nursing home in Freeport, Illinois. The death was completely avoidable, and the nursing home was fined $30,000 for the wrongful death by the Illinois Department of Health.
Perhaps what’s most frustrating about the incident is the lengths the Ridge Terrace staff will go to avoid taking even the slightest responsibility for the nursing home neglect that lead to his wrongful death, or taking any action that would prevent a similar incident from occurring.
The victim was eating dinner with the other residents of the facility and three Ridge Terrace staff members who were overseeing the dining room. After he finished eating he walked into the kitchen. At some unspecified time afterwards, one of the Ridge Terrace staff members entered the kitchen and observed the resident with his mouth filled with food. The resident started to choke. The staff attempted blows to the resident’s back and then the Heimlich maneuver. Only after those efforts showed no signs of working was 911 called. These efforts failed, and the resident choked to death.
The death alone was bad enough, but Ridge Terrace compounded the tragedy by taking no action to ensure that a similar event wouldn’t happen in the future. The resident had a history of taking food, and yet no one was assigned to be on duty in the kitchen. This kind of behavior should have been addressed in the resident care plan. There continues to be no one on staff in the kitchen during meals even though Ridge Terrace staff members identified 7 more residents who were likely to behave in the same way. In fact, no policies were altered whatsoever after this incident.
Choking is a serious risk in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Each resident needs to be properly supervised to ensure that meals are conducted safely. If you have a loved one who has been the victim of a choking incident in a nursing home or assisted living facility, he or she may be entitled to compensation for the injuries suffered. At my law offices, I offer a free and confidential evaluation to anyone who has been injured in a nursing home, and I would welcome the opportunity to speak to you.
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