Just how much is a Connecticut nursing home resident’s life worth? The answer may be $510, according to the fine imposed on a nursing home by the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) that could have imposed a maximum fine in the amount of $3,000.00, for the choking death of a resident. The DPH also required that the offending nursing home submit a corrective-action plan to address the choking death incident.
According to state investigators, the elderly Connecticut nursing home resident suffered from pulmonary disease and mental illness. The nursing home care plan for the resident required the nursing home staff to cut up the resident’s food in small pieces and to closely monitor the resident to make sure that he ate slowly and took small bites. The staff were also required to cue the resident to chew and swallow his food. The goal of the care plan was to insure that the resident received the proper nutrition while at the same time insuring that he safely chewed and swallowed his food.
On the day of the choking incident in February, 2012, the nursing home staff left the resident unattended as he ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When the staff returned to the resident, he was found unresponsive in a seated position. An ambulance was called and the ambulance report stated that the resident’s airway was completely blocked with peanut butter. The resident choked to death and was declared dead at the hospital from cardiac and respiratory arrest.
It appears that the nursing home resident had been identified as someone who had a swallowing disorder and/or was at risk for choking while eating that required that close and proper supervision be provided at all times during meals. It is common for some elderly people, people who have dementia, and people with certain physical conditions to require assistance with meals, such as special food preparation (for example, pureeing of food), restrictions on certain foods (such as meats and other foods that may be difficult to chew and/or swallow), and thickening of fluids to help with swallowing. It is quite obvious that people with swallowing disorders may suffer dire consequences, including choking to death, if there is a lapse in following the required swallowing protocols.
It appears from the investigative report from the Connecticut DPH that the nursing home had identified and addressed the resident’s swallowing/eating issues in his care plan that required close observation, supervision, and cuing while the patient was eating. It is foreseeable that if the care plan requirements are not followed with regard to eating, then the patient can choke to death on the simplest food item in a very short period of time. Choking is a very painful process that takes enough time that most residents would be aware of their dire situation and would suffer severe pain and mental anguish before death.
The Connecticut man’s death is a clear example of the gravest consequences that may result if the simplest but most critical efforts are not consistently made to protect the safety of nursing home residents.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries or death due to nursing home negligence, nursing home neglect, nursing home abuse, nursing home mistakes, or nursing home errors, you may be entitled to compensation for your losses and injuries. The prompt investigation by a medical malpractice attorney may help determine if medical malpractice has occurred.
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