A recently-released Minnesota State Health Department report revealed new information about a questionable choking death in a Mahnomen nursing home. According to the report, 82-year-old Keith H. Johnson was a resident of the Mahnomen Health Center, when he was served a deadly meal of solid foods on Dec. 13, 2010. The decision to serve solid foods clearly violated Johnson’s doctor’s orders, which said he was only to eat pureed meals. Johnson, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, had a documented history of eating too fast and choking. Shortly after being served a sandwich, Johnson began to cough When two attempts at the Heimlich maneuver failed, Johnson was hospitalized, and died six days later from cardiac arrest.
“We regret the tragic incident that occurred,” said Mahnomen’s director of nursing, Rachel Tuenge, who declined to discuss specifics with reporters. “We investigated the incident fully on the day it happened, and made the necessary changes to our policies.”
A nurse who was involved with incident said she’d seen Johnson eating other types of food – namely cookies and bread – so she “thought that the resident could eat regular consistency food.”
Mahnomen, according to a recent Health Department survey, often failed to properly monitor patients’ diets. Not only has it been negligent in serving patients the wrong types of meals, but it’s also been irresponsible in managing patients’ weight. The fact that Mahnomen usually only has about 40 residents makes its inability to provide basic care even more inexcusable.
As we’ve discussed before on Nursing Homes Abuse Blog, choking remains a deadly threat for elderly patients – particularly those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Patients with swallowing difficulties need extra encouragement and supervision – elements that Mahnomen Health Center, apparently, was unable to provide.
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