My beautiful mum was 94 years young and had Vascular Dementia and Alzheimer's. I lived with her and she was diagnosed around ten years ago. She still knew her family and friends. She had a great life. I took her out DAILY for lunch, she went to my twin brother's house every Saturday to spend time with him, his wife and their three children. She loved us all so so much.
One night I made her potatoe hash at her request. She wasn't keen on eating but I made her eat some as she hadn't had much that day and hash is fairly easy to eat. She ate some, I always fed her but was sick straight after. It seemed to ease off and I put her to bed. I tidied up then went up to bed myself. I always slept in her room to make sure she was ok. When I went upstairs, she had been sick again and was breathing a little funny. I asked her if she was ok and she said yes. Her breathing didn't sound right so I took her to A&E. The doctor said her chest sounded ok but she suddenly started to gasp for breath. They nebulised her and within minutes she looked panicked. She grabbed my hand and said "I love you so much Michelle" I said I loved her too and she closed her eyes. The doctors kept doing blood gas tests and chest x-rays but they refused to believe she was choking. After 5 hours she suddenly lost all colour in her face and died. We were all devastated. She might have been 94 but she was very strong. A year before she died she fell whilst I was in the bathroom upstairs and she broke her femur, just above her knee. She had an operation to pin and plate this. I took her home six days later and she learned to walk again with a frame. She could have had the food sucked out of her throats but they refused, saying she wouldn't cope. We felt helpless and hopeless. It is almost a year ago now but I am still devastated and want her back. Why did they say she was too old to treat? I live in the UK.

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(((((Michelle))))) -when people are choking they usually can't speak. Your mum spoke to you. It sounds like you took wonderful care of her. I am so sorry for your loss. This all happened so quickly it must be a tremendous shock for you. (((((((hugs))))))
Helpful Answer (2)

Your mother sounds like a strong and motivated woman. I am so sorry for your loss.

People tend not to linger when they are choking to death. That is why when someone chokes while eating they need the Heimlich maneuver immediately -- not an ambulance to transport them to a hospital, for example.

Did they really say she was too old to treat? Or is that how you interpreted other comments?

Getting food, saliva, vomit -- anything but air, really, into the lungs is the most common cause of death in dementia, according to some studies. It seems to me more likely that your mother aspirated something into her lungs, perhaps even days before the hash incident. This happens very frequently in dementia. It is no one's fault. It is the nature of the disease.

Perhaps a doctor could look at your mother's records and the death certificate and explain to you in more detail what happened. That might make you feel marginally better. A therapist or grief counselor may be of help also.
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I am sorry for your loss, and for the continuing grief you bear.

It does not sound like mum was choking. Choking, the throat can be aspirated, gently, but if she lasted for 5 hours like that--she much more likely aspirated (vomited some food up and she breathed in into her lungs) and to retrieve that would be nearly impossible--the doctors were probably doing all they could, but the lungs, once someone has aspirated food or some foreign object, begin to swell almost immediately. (Think how bad it feels when something "Goes down the wrong pipe" as we say, and how hard you cough to get that up!) Our bodies are made to naturally close off the lungs when we swallow so we DON'T aspirate food. This is why we are told not to eat before surgery--so the anesthesiologist won't have this possibility to deal with.

Your mom's age worked against her. I am so sorry for the way she died. If you are still upset and can't get over the trauma, I hope you get some help to do so.
Helpful Answer (4)

Sorry - I've just realised that your mother died in hospital, yes? And I'm not sure that in that case the coroner's office does carry out checks, because the hospital staff monitor one another's work. But even so, if you're not happy with how you and other relatives were treated by the hospital staff or with the explanations you were being given, there are ways you can report concerns - you can get in touch with PALS at the hospital and ask their advice.
Helpful Answer (1)

Michelle, I don't know of course but I would guess that your mother choked and was sick after eating because there was already something wrong. So it's probably not the potato hash itself that caused the problem, it was another underlying problem - probably the reason she didn't want to eat at first - that was making her ill and led to her death.

If a person has food literally blocking her throat, she doesn't breathe at all: the opening to the windpipe is very small, about the size of a biro cap, and if it were blocked with a lump of mashed potato nothing would get past it. You would have known the difference at the time. So if, as Barb suggests, she had 'aspirated' either some of her supper or possibly when she was sick, this couldn't just be sucked out. The food particles would have gone deep into her lung and caused additional problems there, possibly making an existing infection worse for example.

Didn't the coroner's office ring you after your mother's passing? Even when a death is expected, it is now routine for a person's family and caregivers to be contacted by phone and asked if they want to raise any concerns.

I know this experience must have been very painful for you, and it is impossible not to go through the 'what ifs' and wish things had gone differently. A year on, if you are still struggling to come to terms with what happened, I'd suggest you go to your GP and ask for counselling, or get in touch with Cruse and see if they have anyone in your area you can help.

I'm very sorry for your loss and for how it happened. I hope you'll find help very soon.
Helpful Answer (5)

Michelle; I'm so sorry for your loss!

From your description, it sounds as though your mum wasn't choking (she didn't have food stuck in her airway); it sounds as though she aspirated what she was eating. This leads to "aspiration pneumonia". I don't know much about aspiration pneumonia, but it is not treated with suction.

I'm hoping others with better information will be along to answer.

Again, I'm so sorry for your loss.
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