17 Apr Avoiding choking deaths in social care
Choking is the fourth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the UK with more than half of choking deaths occurring in people over the age of 74. An average of six care home residents die from choking each month, making it the biggest cause of preventable death.
One-third of care home residents are at risk
Our risk of choking increases exponentially as we age due to the deterioration of teeth and muscles. Dysphagia is one of the most common reasons that elderly people develop difficulty swallowing: it affects around one-third of care home residents and can stem from conditions such as stroke or dementia. Those with dysphagia can be catered for with a texture-modified diet, as prescribed by a speech pathologist, but it is vitally important that care staff are trained to recognise the symptoms of undiagnosed dysphagia:
- Coughing/clearing of throat during or after eating/drinking
- Pocketing of food in the side of the mouth
- Significant amount of food left in the mouth even after swallowing
- Food or drink dribbling out of the mouth when trying to eat or drink
- Difficulty initiating a swallow
- Vomiting after meals
- “Gurgling” voice after eating/drinking
Accurate resident dietary information can reduce the risk of choking
In social care, there are many safeguards in place to cater and care for dysphagia patients but it can take just one small slip up to cause someone to choke. In 2017, the CQC brought charges against a care home for causing the preventable choking death of a 77-year-old resident. The issues identified by the CQC that led to the choking was a failure to pass on treatment information and the failure to keep accurate and updated records of patient medical information. It is one thing to be trained to recognise symptoms of dysphagia, but without good administration practices, there is still a clear risk.
How to respond to a choking resident?
In addition to following the standard back blows/abdominal compression procedures, there are some newer airway clearing devices such as Dechoker and LifeVac that can assist to more safely and effectively dislodge blockages. These devices are especially important with frail subjects who are more likely to be injured by abdominal compressions.
As good as these life-saving devices are, there is nothing better than prevention. Getting to the point where you need to treat a resident for a serious airway blockage means that something has already gone wrong. SoupedUp’s care catering software allows important resident dietary information to be recorded digitally and shared between clinical, wellbeing and catering staff easily. If a change in a resident’s condition occurs, their profile can be updated instantly to ensure all care staff are aware of changes to a resident’s ability to swallow and therefore, the increased risk of choking.
SoupedUp is a leading catering care software and online training provider now proudly serving the UK adult social care industry. Our proven technology solutions save care homes time and money, while reducing the risks associated with food service quality and delivery in a social care setting.