Maida Vale nursing home choking death ‘an accident’

A WOMAN tragically choked to death on New Year’s Eve while being fed by staff at a Maida Vale nursing home, a court has heard.

Ljilianna Griffiths, 59, was “incapable of any independent existence” and was constantly cared for by two staff at Athlone House nursing home in Woodfield Road.

She was being fed by one of the staff members when she choked on the food and died, Westminster’s Coroners Court was told.

Ms Griffiths, a widow originally from Yugoslavia, had been diagnosed with dementia at the early age of 51 and became a permanent resident at the home in 2006.

She had no means of verbal communication and was bed or chair-bound and could only be moved by winch. She also had a history of regular epileptic fits and chest infections as a result of difficulties with swallowing.

Permanent assistance was required to help her with all aspects of day-to-day life, including washing and eating. At 4.30pm, Ms Griffiths was in bed and appeared to be “chesty” so a suction machine was used to remove phlegm from her throat. One of here carers began feeding her slowly with a teaspoon to allow her to swallow each mouthful when, at 4.50pm, she suddenly started to twitch in the manner that she would do before a fit.

Feeding was stopped, a suction machine was used and oxygen was administered. But when paramedics arrived, they couldn’t resuscitate her. The home had considered inserting a feeding tube directly to Ms Griffiths’ stomach but her family – despite knowing about the choking risk – had refused and insisted she continued to be fed orally, the court heard.

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Rather than attribute any blame to Athlone House or any of Ms Griffiths’ carers, Westminster coroner Dr Shirley Radcliffe praised the nursing home for looking after their patient so well.

“It’s a testament to the nursing home that she hadn’t developed any pressure sores despite being bed-bound,” said the coroner. She gave the cause of death as accidental due to inhalation of food.

The 24-bed nursing home for physically frail older people was rated “excellent” by the Care Quality Commission in its most recent inspection last year.

The service, run by NHS Westminster, was described in the inspection report as providing “a high standard of care” with a “competent, caring and friendly staff team”.