Choking Deaths in Nursing Homes Lead to Calls for More Staff Training

320px-Hospital_cafeteria.jpgAn unusually high number of cases of nursing home residents choking to death in Connecticut has led to calls for improved training for staff members. The state has fined three nursing homes in three unrelated choking deaths, all occurring within a period of three months. In each incident, nursing home staff left the resident unattended while eating. In two of the cases, the resident had food obtained from outside the nursing home either without the knowledge or permission of the staff. Nursing homes owe a duty to their residents to keep them safe and protect them from unusually dangerous conditions, which includes special needs regarding food.

An elderly resident of the Torrington Health and Rehabilitation Center in Torrington, Connecticut choked to death on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on February 3, 2012. An investigation determined that nursing home staff left the resident unattended with the sandwich. The resident had strict diet restrictions and required close supervision while eating. The state health department fined the nursing home $510, although the fine could have been as much as $3,000.

The next case involved an 82 year-old woman with developmental disabilities who lived at the Aurora Senior Living Center in Cromwell, Connecticut. On March 6, 2012, a nurse, reportedly in error, gave a visitor permission to give the woman some marshmallows. She choked on two marshmallows, which caused her to go into cardiac arrest. She died at the hospital two days later. The nurse lost her job after a review found that she gave the visitor permission to give the woman food without consulting her doctor’s diet orders. The patient was reportedly on a ground-food diet, and required continuous supervision while eating. The state fined the nursing home $650.

On April 29, 2012, a resident of Meridian Manor in Waterbury, Connecticut reportedly ordered take out ziti and meatballs, with instructions to deliver it directly to the resident’s room. The resident was on a soft-consistency diet that allowed meatballs, but required that staff members cut them into pieces and supervise the resident while eating. The nursing home had a sign directing all food deliveries through the front, but it did not have a specific policy for food deliveries to residents. The staff reportedly did not know about this particular order. A nurse found the resident choking “on a significant amount of food.” The resident died at the hospital later in the day. The nursing home paid a $510 fine to the state.

A state panel that investigates the deaths of people in state care with developmental disabilities, known as the Fatality Review Board (similar to Maryland’s Long Term Care Unit), recommended changes to nurse training in light of these incidents. The Board recommends improved training in treatment of patients on soft- or ground-food diets, with particular attention to providing supervision while a patient is eating.

Nursing homes must provide diligent care and a safe environment for their residents, and people injured due to nursing home abuse or neglect may be entitled to damages. The Maryland nursing home lawyers at Lebowitz and Mzhen help obtain compensation for people injured due to abuse or neglect by nursing home staff. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Resident Charged with Arson for Fire in Assisted-Living Facility, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, March 6, 2012
Maryland Nursing Homes Demand Higher Priority for Power Restoration During Outages, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, November 15, 2011
Prevention of Nursing Home Falls and Hip-Fractures in the Elderly, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, August 8, 2011
Photo credit: ‘Hospital cafeteria’ by PCHS-NJROTC (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

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