Nursing Home Responsible For Choking Death Of Patient

Choking Death Of PatientA jury in Michigan awarded $2.35 million in damages to the family of a deceased nursing home patient who choked to death on a meatball served to him during an admission to a skilled nursing facility.   The patient identified as 56-year-old Walter Polombski was a patient at Nightingale Nursing Center in Warren, Michigan— a facility operated by Sava Senior Care when a meatball (he should have never been served) became stuck in his airway.

Even after Mr. Polombski’s choking was identified by staff, there was a significant delay in the process of attempting to clear his airway.  In fact, evidence at the trial suggested that the facility waiting approximately 12 minutes from the time the choking was identified until they contacted paramedics.  The delay in obtaining care to clear the airway was alleged to have exacerbated the situation.

Choking is a disturbingly common type of injury that threatens the safety of nursing home patients– particularly those who have sustained a stroke or other neurological injury.  In order to minimize a patient’s risk of choking, facilities frequently utilize the skills of a speech therapist to conduct a swallowing test to determine what type of dietary modifications need to be made to the patient’s food: served cut up, ground, chopped, pureed, or in another manner which meets the patients physical abilities.

In patients with extensive swallowing difficulties, restrictions may me implemented on the type of food or drink that the patient can have.  In extreme circumstances, a doctor may categorize the patient as “NPO”.  NPO stands for Nothing Per Orem which means nothing by mouth. Doctors use this on orders when they do not want the patient to take in any type of food or liquid by mouth.

Once the dietary restrictions have been put into place, it is up to nursing home staff to carefully implement the orders and keep the dietary orders in place until they receive alternative orders from the patients physicians.  

However, even in circumstances where patients have dietary restrictions in place, it is important for staff to monitor all patients during meal times to help patients safely enjoy their food.  At all times, staff should always incorporated basic choking precautions:

  • Encourage patients to sit upright
  • Always keep a beverage within reach
  • Don’t rush patients while they eat
  • Warn patients about food that may have bones or skin that may not be apparent
  • Train staff on how to dislodge food / Heimlich maneuver


Dysphagia In Nursing Home Patients May Contribute To Medical Complications Such As: Choking, Pneumonia Or Death

Swallowing Therapy of Neurologic Patients- Correlation of Outcome with Pretreatment Variables and Therapeutic Methods (pdf) Dysphagia 10:1-5(1995)

Toothless Patient Chokes To Death After Nursing Home Staff Ignores Doctor’s Order

Choking Death Just Latest Problem At California Nursing Home

Jury awards $2.35 million for death caused by choking on meatball in Warren nursing home Daily Tribune


One response to “Nursing Home Responsible For Choking Death Of Patient”

  1. Efrain says:

    As a current victim to nursing home abuse I can tell you that my research shows it is rampant and happens all over. The employees here in New York know of the nannay cams and have changed tactics. Two tactics being used is the heavy spraying of toxic chemicals into the patient’s room such as insecticide, terpentine/benzene et al. The other tactic is sleep deprivation. This is especially dangerous to those with compromised immune systems and livers but can damage vital organs of anyone that is ill. I have submitted an action and a Order to Show Cause, but one of more of the defendants is using friends or relatives at the courthouse by which to have the final order signed by the judge. It is three months now and yet the order remains unsigned. If I were an attotney or could easily leave the nursing home daily I do not believe they would be taking so long. I caught them in two lies and the response from them was: “Oh well.” This other guy saw bruises on his mother and installed a nanny cam and had the proff he needed. When he went to the nurse and administrator about it, they demanded the video file, and when he said know they threatened to set him up. True to their words, the nurse and administrator both to blood and feces from the guys mother and then called the cops on him, sayinh they walked into the room and caaught him sodomizing his mother. Later with a good lawyer the nurse recanted her statement and admitted that they have set up others who complained about any abuse of aloved one. He won 10 million dollars for his pain and the pain to his mother. I implore all cicitizens to push their respresentatives for a Federal Bill that will make it mandatory for all nursing homes to have CCTV of the hallways, dining room, recreation and smoking area, as well as the lounge area, and also have surveillance of the outside perimeteer of the building. This type of security will act as a deterrent and provide the patient with proff of wrong doing. This type of security is way over due but if we all do not push law makers to make this security law, than the abusers will continue to get away with assault and even murder. THE TIME TO ACT IS NOW!!!!

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Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa
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