Improper Staffing and Training Led to a Woman’s Tragic Choking Death at an Assisted Living Facility in Kentucky

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Our firm recently resolved a case against an assisted living facility for a family whose mother choked to death due to the negligence of the nursing home. The family contacted us after an EMS worker expressed concerns to them regarding the circumstances that led to their mother’s death.

Assisted Living Facility Was Reassuring During the Admissions Process

Less than a year before her death, the family, on the advice of their mother’s doctor, selected and admitted her into a Kentucky assisted living facility due to her dementia and increasing need for assistance with the tasks of daily living. Although the family no longer lived in Kentucky, their mother didn’t want to move from her home of more than 80 years. The family found a facility in Kentucky, and after meeting with the administrator of the home, they trusted that the nursing home would take care of their mother—and that they had the staff and training to do so.

Her daughters specifically expressed their concern to the administrator and director of nursing (DON) about their mother’s increasing difficulty eating—particularly with swallowing. Both the DON and the administrator stated that they had the staff to watch over this and help her with her needs. They even boasted that their staff in the cafeteria was trained in basic lifesaving skills, so there was no need to worry. Although this assisted living home was more expensive than other homes in the county, the family felt reassured and decided to have her admitted.

A Series of Failures in the Cafeteria Led to Woman’s Death

In the second week of living in the home, their mother was in the cafeteria eating her normal meal. This time, however, the staff did not take the time to properly cut her food into the smaller bites she required. Midway through her meal, she began to choke on a bite of her food. The cafeteria staff was not properly monitoring her and took over 2 minutes to notice her distress. This was caught on video surveillance footage that our office discovered during our investigation. To add insult to injury, the staff that came to her aid did almost everything wrong. They did not check her airway as they should have. Instead, they assumed she was having a heart attack, so they placed her supine on the floor and began CPR. At no time was there any attempt to check her airway.

A family that was visiting another resident called 911, and emergency medical personnel arrived on the scene within minutes. They immediately checked her airway and found and removed the piece of food that was obstructing her breathing. She was taken to a nearby hospital, but it was too late. She had sustained severe brain damage as a result of being without oxygen for too long. The family made the difficult decision to remove her from life support and she passed away.

Our Investigation Revealed Significant Deficiencies at the Nursing Home

Our firm discovered major flaws in the nursing home’s staffing and training. The promises they made to the family were simply not true. They had inadequate staffing and inadequate training to handle the number of residents that were living in the home. As a result, they were not able to deliver the level of care they promised. Although their glossy brochures suggested a perfect facility, the Kentucky Office of Inspector General had investigated and cited them several times for poor performance. The family, tragically, was not informed of this by the nursing home and relied only on what they were told. This highlights the importance of doing as much research as possible when selecting a nursing home, and it is one of the reasons our firm offers a free guide concerning nursing homes.

If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of a nursing home or assisted living facility, contact us today to learn how we can help you hold them responsible. The consultation is free, and there is no obligation. Contact us today—you have nothing to lose.