Many people focus on the choking risks encountered by young children, but they fail to realize there's another incredibly vulnerable demographic: the elderly. The National Safety Council reported 4,800 choking deaths in 2013, with more than half affecting people older than 75. It only takes 10 minutes for permanent brain death to occur during choking, as the entire airway may be blocked off by a foreign object, making it difficult for help to arrive in time. You need to understand the reasons choking is commonplace among the elderly, the objects creating the highest risk factors and how to prevent choking death.
Several factors create a high choking risk among the elderly. As people age, they naturally produce less saliva, so chewing and swallowing food becomes more difficult. Seniors may lack sufficient teeth to break down food easily or have ill-fitting dentures causing difficulties. Assisted living communities and nursing homes often face staffing shortages, so medical professionals may rush the eating process because they simply have too many things to do and not enough time to accomplish their duties. The elderly also face many medical conditions that make it easier to choke. Stroke, Parkinson's Disease, esophageal tumors and brain injuries impact their eating ability.
Most elderly choking incidents revolve around several problem foods and liquids. Hard candy, a favorite among seniors for its ability to help with saliva production, also happens to be the perfect size for getting lodged in the throat. Bones in chicken and fish may not necessarily block the entire airway, but they can be painful and reduce oxygen intake to dangerous levels. Dry food, such as crackers, don't work well with the lower saliva environments you may face as a senior. Finally, any food with a diameter and shape capable of blocking off the airway should be cut into smaller pieces or avoided.
You're in a difficult situation as you grow older. Children and grandchildren are off living their lives, so you likely live alone or in a community where you have frequent unattended time. You need a strategy to minimize your choking risk and save yourself before you hit a dangerous oxygen deprivation level. Your first course of action is to practice safe eating techniques. If you have dentures, keep them in when you're eating to properly break down food. Incorporate soft and easy-to-chew food, such as soup and ground meat, into your diet. Take your time eating and avoid talking or drinking while chewing.
You can do all the right things and still get in a situation where food gets lodged in your throat. Help may be inaccessible, especially if you live alone or in an understaffed nursing home. Physical limitations and disability make it difficult, if not impossible, to self-administer the Abdominal Thrusts. Instead of attempting a procedure that can cause significant injury or risk waiting for someone to come to your aid, a medical device called the Dechoker gives you an easy to use and fast way to save yourself.
The Dechoker works by creating enough suction to remove any obstructions from your airway. You don't need to put yourself at risk for injury by using it or wait for another person to assist you. You place the device's tube into your mouth and cover your face with the mask. After that, you gently pull the plunger on the Dechoker's tube to pull the fluid or materials out of your mouth. In a few seconds, your airway is clear. Your choking risk rises substantially as a senior, but the Dechoker gives you the tool you need to prevent long-lasting damage or death stemming from a blocked airway.
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