A family hope that an inquest opening on 25 June in Stockport into the death of Jane Olive Parker on 24 August 2016 at Fir Trees Care home in Dukinfield, Tameside, Greater Manchester, will address how their mother could have been allowed to seemingly choke to death simply by eating an evening meal.
68-year-old Jane’s adult children, Richard and Amy, had been dealing with matters themselves until recently, but then turned to Sarah Cunliffe at Shoosmiths for help with representation at the inquest.
Mrs Parker (pictured left) had dementia and poor mobility. She had moved to Fir Trees in early July 2016 from a previous home, Millbrook, also run by the same provider, HC One. Prior to her death, she had a number of food-related choking episodes – the first in late 2015 when she was resident at another care home.
She was referred to the speech and language therapy (SALT) team for an assessment of her swallowing problems associated with progressive neurological conditions. The SALT team recommended that Mrs Parker have a Stage 4 modified diet. Mrs Parker suffered another choking incident when she first moved to Millbrook in September 2015, after which her GP recommended a Stage 3 diet, agreed by the SALT team.
However, when Mrs Parker was then transferred to Fir Trees, staff did not assess her directly, relying instead on the care plan from Millbrook which crucially did not mention anything about the previous choking incidents.
On 24 August 2016 at around 4.45pm Mrs Parker was offered a choice of soup or chicken nuggets for her evening meal, served in her bedroom rather than the main dining area. She chose the nuggets.
Staff should have known of her dietary requirements and should have been aware that she did not have insight into the risks posed by that choice. Despite this, the meal of chicken nuggets and chips was given to her and she was left to eat unsupervised.
About 40 minutes later an ambulance was called when care workers discovered Mrs Parker to be unresponsive with a fixed stare. Paramedics gave her CPR but she was pronounced dead less than an hour after being given that evening meal. The case was reported to the coroner and a post mortem was carried out. The pathologist’s conclusion was that the cause of Mrs Parker’s death was asphyxiation due to aspiration of food stuff.
Richard Parker said:
‘We are still in shock nearly two years after our loss. When you entrust the care of a loved one to a care home with an apparent good reputation, you hope that they will be cared for responsibly and professionally. Having read stories of bad care in homes on the news you never think this could happen to you. We feel completely let down by HC One and feel that the death of a wonderful mother could have been avoided.’
Sarah Cunliffe comments:
‘The family believe that their mother choked to death by attempting to eat a meal that was entirely inappropriate for her and should never have been given to her. They hope a full inquest will give them clarity and answers to the many questions they have about how this was allowed to happen.’