A pensioner with dementia choked to death after care home staff gave her chicken nuggets for dinner despite a diagnosed swallowing problem.
Grandmother Jane Olive Parker, 68, was given the ‘inappropriate’ meal at Fir Trees Care Home, in Dukinfield, Tameside, in August 2016, an inquest heard.
At the time, she should have been on a special diet of soft and pureed food – but a lapse in communication and good practice meant staff were not aware of this.
After Mrs Parker’s inquest, which concluded neglect by the care home provider HC One had contributed to her death, her son Richard, 36, said: “The inquest gave us a lot of answers, but we still feel completely let down by HC-One. “Staff should have known about mum’s diet and should have been aware that her dementia meant she wouldn’t have known the risks in choosing the meal that killed her.
“We feel her death could have been avoided and we had at least a few years left with her.”
The inquest heard that Mrs Parker, a retired secretary who had lived in Glossop had been diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2015.
Following a fall at home, she was admitted to Tameside Hospital, where a choking incident alerted staff that she had problems swallowing they recommended she have a stage three diet – semi-solid, soft or pureed food that can be easily digested.
Jane Parker with her children Richard and Amy
She was referred to the speech and language therapy (SALT) team for assessment and they advised Mrs Parker should remain on a stage three diet.
In July 2016, Mrs Parker was transferred to Fir Trees care home. But rather than assess her directly, staff at Fir Trees relied instead on her care plan from Millbrook.
The inquest heard that, contrary to good practice, no new care plan was put in place and the transferred plan from Millbrook omitted the choking episodes and wrongly stated Mrs Parker could eat ‘stage four foods’, or chopped-up solids.
On August 24, 2016, Mrs Parker was offered a choice of soup or chicken nuggets and chips for dinner.
Served in her bedroom rather than in the main dining area, she chose nuggets and was left unsupervised.
About 40 minutes later care workers discovered Mrs Parker was unresponsive with a fixed stare. She was pronounced dead less than an hour after the meal.
The pathologist’s post-mortem identified the cause of death as asphyxiation, aspiration of food and dementia.
Alison Mutch, HM Coroner for Manchester South, returned a narrative verdict.
She said: “I am satisfied that Mrs Parker was not consistently given the appropriate food and whilst incidents that indicated her swallow was compromised were noted, there was no escalation or reporting to the manager.”
Mrs Parker, described as ‘loving and thoughtful with a love of amateur dramatics’, leaves her children Richard, a motor trader from Ashton-under-Lyne, and Amy Laye, 33, a manager for Tesco, as well as three grandchildren.
Chris McKinney a partner at Access Legal Solicitors who represented the family at inquest, said: “The coroner’s conclusion of neglect vindicated the family’s belief that their mother choked to death by attempting to eat a meal that was entirely inappropriate for her.”
A spokesman for Fir Trees and Millbrook said: “Over the two years since this sad case, we have worked hard to learn from what happened and to share these learnings across our organisation.”