Nursing Home Settles Choking Death Lawsuit — Understaffing to Blame?

A nursing home has agreed to a significant settlement in a case involving a resident choking to death when left alone while eating, contrary to his doctor’s orders. As a local CBS affiliate reports:

A certified nursing assistant who was assigned to assist Mares with his evening meal set up the food tray on his table, positioned him to begin eating then stepped away from the area, according to the lawsuit. Mares ate the food unsupervised and began to choke.

After realizing that Mares was choking, the nursing assistant unsuccessfully attempted to perform the Heimlich maneuver, according to the lawsuit. He also used the call light to ask for help, but no one responded. Mares was later pronounced dead after further life-saving efforts also proved unsuccessful.

The family’s attorney blamed systemic understaffing for the death, and we agree: systemic understaffing in nursing homes is a huge problem.  And one thing that happens when you do not have enough nursing staff is people who need supervision are left alone.

That can lead to nursing home choking deaths, as well as falls, pressure ulcers, infections, and death.  Learn more about the risks of nursing home choking death here:

It would be interesting to know whether this aide was trained to perform the Heimlich maneuver.  But she never should have been left alone to care for too many people.  And when she—and the choking resident—needed help, there was no one to respond to their call light.

How horrible it must be to choke to death, alone.  We recently filed a lawsuit against a nursing home facility that allowed a resident to choke to death, alone.   Then they hid the truth from the family, according to the lawsuit. (You can read the entire lawsuit on the post.)

Sure enough, a look at Medicare data on Nursing Home Compare shows this nursing home is way understaffed for its residents’ care needs:

Chart showing this nursing home versus state and national averages fro nursing home understaffing

Numbers don’t lie: this nursing home appears to have too few caregivers for their residents’ needs. Is this a chain-wide problem?

Think this is a “local” problem?  One of the companies that claims to directly own this facility also claims to own more than 25 more nursing homes in multiple states.  So it could be a much larger problem!

Digging into this corporate ownership information is critical when investigating a nursing home lawsuit.  Nursing home lawyers can find out who is really making the decision to understaff, if they understand how to find this information.

I’ve seen multiple examples of corporate chain nursing homes being controlled by the corporate-level folks.  People deciding how much nursing staff to have, without having any idea how much care the residents at any specific facility need.

That’s a recipe for an understaffing disaster, leading to nursing home resident deaths from preventable problems like choking, pressure sores, falls, and infections.

Tell us your experience or thoughts on this story in the comments below.

You can read the complete news report here:

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