We received a call from our mother’s aged care facility around breakfast time one Friday that she was on her way to hospital after having breathing difficulties overnight. She passed away late the next day, in early November 2016. The emergency department doctors said the likely cause of her admission to hospital the day prior was “aspiration pneumonia”. (This condition occurs when food, saliva, liquids, or vomit is breathed into the lungs or airways leading to the lungs, instead of being swallowed into the oesophagus and stomach.)
Australia’s aged care facilities are increasingly deadly places for their residents, with falls, choking and suicide the main causes of preventable deaths, according to a recent Monash University study that calls for more effort to be made to reduce risks for elderly Australians.
The researchers last year found up to 3,000 residential aged care home deaths were “premature and preventable”, with falls accounting for the vast majority (82 per cent) of these deaths and medication errors also among the reasons for the loss of life.
The result represented a 400 per cent increase in preventable deaths over the past decade.
This Sydney Morning Herald report looks at the experience of one public health researcher whose mother’s death while an aged care resident highlighted some of the key pitfalls in overstretched nursing homes.
What experience have you had with someone passing away either in or from an aged care facility? If the death was not from natural causes, what was the reason? Did the person receive appropriate palliative care and medical attention? Were that person’s loved ones cared for appropriately?