Wednesday 23 January 2019

Family of pensioner who died after choking incident in nursing home receive €110K settlement

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

Tim Healy

The family of a pensioner who died after a choking incident in a nursing home dining room has settled its High Court action for €110,000.

Father of five, Sean Cunningham (73), who suffered from dementia, was left alone to feed himself and choked to death, the court was told.

Mr  Cunningham was residing at St Gabriel’s Nursing Home, Raheny, Dublin, was known to have difficulty eating, his counsel Paul Burns said.

Mr Cunningham's son John, of Park Lawn, Clontarf , Dublin had sued SGNH Ltd, with offices at Warrington Place, Dublin, the owners of St Gabriel's, as a result of his father's death on December 16, 2014.

It was claimed  Mr Cunningham, who had been in the nursing home since August 2014, was wheeled in to the dining room at around 5pm on December 16, 2014 and left alone to feed himself.  It was claimed no staff member was present in the section of the room where Mr Cunningham was seated and which was separated from the front section by a wall.

Ten minutes  later, a staff member heard a noise and discovered Mr Cunningham  apparently choking and raised the alarm.

Various attempts were made to clear Mr Cunningham's airway and CPR was also commenced, but he died shortly after admission to hospital.

It was claimed there was a failure to have any adequate care plan or any nutrition plan to address Mr Cunningham's known risk of choking.

There was also an alleged failure to ensure his meals were supervised and he was assisted in eating. It was also claimed there was a failure to communicate Mr Cunningham's risk of choking to all staff members having contact with him.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told liability had been admitted in the case.

An inquest last year in to the death of Mr Cunningham heard the pensioner suffered from dementia, with short term memory problems following a brain tumour.

He was admitted to Beaumont Hospital in April 2014 after he went missing and was later found in Galway.

He had previously gone missing for two days while on holiday in Madrid.

The family were finding it increasingly difficult to care for him, Dublin Coroner’s Court heard, and he was admitted to the nursing home after coming out of Beaumont.

A post-mortem found the cause of death was cardio respiratory arrest due to an episode of choking on a food bolus. Coroner Dr Myra Cullinane returned a verdict of misadventure.

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