A coroner determined that a 77-year-old nursing home resident choked to death on his dinner, according to an Australian newspaper. The victim suffered from advanced dementia necessitating assistance with meals. Investigators determined that the nursing home attendant assigned to supervise him left the man unattended as he was eating his dinner.
Choking injuries and asphyxiation are real dangers amongst the elderly. Many nursing home residents suffer from dementia, impaired judgment, difficulty swallowing, and problems chewing food. It is the responsibility of the nursing home staff to identify those who may be at risk for choking.
If a nursing home resident has difficulty swallowing, the nursing home staff should provide soft foods, cut all food into small pieces and make sure the resident is in an upright position while eating. Most importantly, the nursing home staff must carefully monitor residents during mealtimes to prevent choking. Choking incidents may result in injury, medical complications and even death.
Mealtimes are when the nursing home residents are most reliant upon their caregivers. It is imperative that residents are attended to by staff that are familiar with their needs and abilities. Too often, high staff turnover and under-staffing leads to errors in care. In order to avert disaster, the nursing home staff must monitor the type of food served and the amount consumed by each resident.