The Hartford Courant reported that another choking death of a nursing home resident. One of the most unnecessary and preventable dangers in nursing homes are food related injuries and deaths as a result of neglect.  Patients who are cognitively impaired and require special diets have become victims of neglect. These patients, in their impaired state, are given food they cannot consume.

An incident at Paradigm Health Care Center in Norwalk, represents at least the fifth choking related death in Connecticut nursing homes in the past ten months.  Researching developmentally disabled deaths in group homes and nursing homes, The Courant, a Hartford newspaper, found 76 cases of deaths from 2004-2010.  In all of these cases, abuse, neglect, or healthcare error was a contributing factor.  Of these deaths, 14 were on special diets and choked to death after eating food they should never have ingested. 

Incidents like these, where patients die as a result of choking from food they should never have eaten are too common within nursing homes. Upon further investigation, there were a number of instances of improper food consumption within Paradigm. The facility was fined just over $1000 and had to submit a plan of correction to the Connecticut Department of Public Health.

How much do you believe a life is worth? Because the Connecticut Department of Public Health has consistently said that a life is only worth a thousand dollars.

As a result of this latest incident, James McGaughey, head of the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, which investigated all 76 deaths, will be coordinating a food-handling training session statewide for the nursing home industry. This training session is the latest in a series of emergency training in the last decade, complementary to nurses and nurse aide’s training which is required in the licensing process.

The sad thing in these cases is that the problem is common, and the consequences are paltry. People suffer, become ill, and even die from improper food consumption. The punishment for nursing homes is a thousand dollar fine. The company owns several nursing homes, one of which was fined for an incident of patient injury. In this case, a cognitively impaired resident fell in the bathroom while being assisted by a nurse’s aide. The resident’s care plan indicated that he was to have safety measures in place when being moved, but none of these measures were in place when he fell. The facility was fined just over $1000.

In a similar instance of safety hazards, a patient with dementia died in November at the Bridgeport Medical Healthcare Center. The patient was found dead, entangled in a plastic privacy curtain. The patient had become entangled in the curtain before and had a habit of playing with the curtain. However, the patient still had access to it. The nursing home was fined just over $1000 and ordered to submit a plan of correction.