A Michigan jury has awarded more than $2 million to the family of a man who died after choking on food at the nursing home in which he lived. The case underscores the problems and dangers that can be found at poorly staffed care facilities, as well as those where staff are under-trained or neglect established procedures and protocols.
The victim, Walter Polomski, suffered from a host of health problems including early stage dementia and difficulty swallowing, and lived in a nursing home. While eating lunch one day in March 2008, he apparently took a meatball off another patient’s tray and choked on it. The food became lodged in his trachea, hindering his ability to breath.
Because of his health issues, meatballs weren’t part of Polomski’s regular diet, and the dining room employee apparently failed to notice that he was eating another resident’s food.
A Pattern of Deaths
In its lawsuit, Polomski’s estate alleged the nursing home was negligent.
Among the errors that led to Polomski’s death:
• The dining room was supervised by a single staff member who didn’t know the Heimlich maneuver. The plaintiffs said at least five staff members should have been watching over residents during lunch.
• A nurse at the facility who tried to treat him used an “ambu bag” to force air into his lungs, which may have caused the food to further block his airway.
• It took 12 minutes for 911 to be called.
Unfortunately, Polomski’s story isn’t an isolated one. The New York Times recently reported that developmentally disabled people in state care in New York frequently die of things other than natural causes.
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