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Mysterious Deaths at Southwest Illinois Nursing Home

Once again, in a state with a historically poor record of performance when it comes to nursing home quality of care, incidents of abuse, and pervasive neglect, there have been two mysterious deaths that warrant investigation and possible legal action. At the Cahokia Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Cahokia, in the southwest corner of Illinois, two elderly patients – a 76 year old man and an 86 year old woman – sadly died in seemingly separate incidents that, as reported, may have occurred as the result of neglect. In one instance, the 76 year old male resident died after choking on his oatmeal, and could not be properly resuscitated by staff because he was “tied to a chair.” The 86 year old woman was hospitalized after she threw up bile, and died one day later.

Both incidents occurred in April of this year. Local reports cited the nursing home director’s comments that other complaints had been lodged against the facility regarding the level of care provided to residents, though there were no further details. The latter incident has reportedly been investigated by the state police, and according to records there were two cases investigated by the Illinois Department of Public Health, and it is believed that these were the two incidents investigated, although this has yet to be publicly confirmed to do privacy rules. Based on the published investigation (linked above), the facility must come up with a plan of correction to fix problems.

Choking in Nursing Homes

While we await any word about this case, these events as reported so far are deeply troubling. For many residents, choking is a serious threat to their well-being because older and infirmed residents may have difficulty consuming food because of a particular physical disability, or even a mental one, as the resident at Cahokia suffered from Alzheimer’s. Some residents must even be on restricted dietary plans that do not just restrict the nutritional substance of what they eat, but even restrict the form and dimensions of what they eat.

For example, some residents may be restricted from solid foods and can only consume liquids. Whatever the nutritional plan, these residents also need acute and close attention and supervision by nurses or aides to ensure they consume the right food in the right amounts, and to ensure they do not choke. We previously discussed a case where a male resident on a field trip ate a hamburger by himself without anyone watching, and choked in the process. This is a scary and dangerous situation, and this type of neglect can lead to death, government investigations, and potential civil lawsuits by the injured or their families.

Improper Nutrition/Hydration

In the other tragic incident, the resident spat up bile and died a day later. Bile, which is a liquid produced by the liver that relates to digestion. Reflux, or throwing up, that liquid can occur where the body does not properly regulate its usage, and too much is released into the stomach and/or throat. Complications from stomach or gallbladder surgery can lead to these symptoms, as can peptic ulcers. While of course it is unclear how this relates to the reported death at the Cahokia nursing home, but it may relate to the patient’s digestive processes. If not properly monitored, unaddressed problems could have led to the bile reflux. The bottom line is that residents must be under the careful care of aides, and plans of care must be followed to the letter.

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